American football missed Cristiano Ronaldo. A transfer to the MLS would have been possible, but the multiple world footballer chose Saudi Arabia. That could make Lionel Messi even more interesting for the USA.
The world’s most famous athlete was on the verge of taking his talent to MLS. Arguably the greatest global star in the history of sport, Cristiano Ronaldo almost decided to continue his career in the United States, at Sporting KC!
The club was obviously really interested and tried to convince Ronaldo and his entourage at several meetings. It was a deal that seemed almost impossible, but in the end it almost happened nonetheless.
But as we all know, “almost” doesn’t count for much. Ronaldo eventually opted for his mega-expensive move to Al-Nassr, putting Saudi football, not MLS, on his shoulders.
So that’s it. The attempt to sign one of football’s titans narrowly failed. And the next?
The American football public, and Inter Miami in particular, will now focus on Lionel Messi, a player who continued to cement his iconic status in Qatar this winter. After winning the World Cup, Messi continues to be linked with a move to Miami, if not soon then at some point.
But does MLS still need Messi, or does the fact that the league missed out on Ronaldo make wooing the Argentinian icon even more important now?
Lionel Messi in the MLS? That would benefit the league
There are many reasons why MLS would benefit from Messi’s arrival, especially considering what’s on the horizon.
The league has just signed a major partnership with Apple for broadcasting rights, allowing MLS matches to be shown in countries around the world. Messi’s presence would make this deal a lot more lucrative for everyone involved and bring insane crowds to a league that has yet to find its place at international level.
One only has to look at Al-Nassr’s growth on social media following the signing of Ronaldo to get an idea of what such a move means when it comes to stimulating interest from around the world. In particular, bringing Messi to Miami would immediately catapult this club into the group of the most followed clubs in the world.
The combination of Messi’s fame, David Beckham’s ownership and Miami’s culture would make the city a destination for fans and players alike.
But not only the MLS would benefit from a possible arrival of Messi, but the sport as a whole. After all, a world championship is just around the corner and it will be there sooner than you think.
The 2022 World Cup showed just how far the US has come on and to some extent off the field. Viewership reached record levels throughout the tournament in Qatar. Coupled with the rising TV numbers of the Premier League, Liga MX and Champions League shows that football is on the up in the United States.
However, interest in the local sport still lags far behind that of the international leagues. Many believe the 2026 World Cup will help close that gap as fans across the country fall in love with the sport before their local teams.
Messi’s signing would, however, start that process earlier and give American football a runway to the 2026 World Cup, which, depending on who you ask, could be Messi’s swan song on the world stage.
Do MLS and American football need Messi to build this runway? Is the presence of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner necessary for the sport to achieve its goals in this country? Probably not, but it would definitely help.
Lionel Messi in the MLS? So the superstar would benefit
For Messi, it’s a move that still makes sense, even after his World Cup win. There is general agreement that he will extend his spell at PSG for at least another year as his performances in Qatar have shown he has at least a little time left to play at the highest level. That could delay a move to the US, but not completely rule it out.
For Messi, a move to Miami would be, above all, a rapprochement with his native Argentina. Should he decide to help defend the World Cup title, it would make the commitments a lot less strenuous for his nation.
Off the field he would also benefit. He would certainly get a lot of money, if not a stake in the team. He would become a cultural icon in the US, much like Pelé, whose recent death only further underscores his importance to American football. And in a way, he would step out of the limelight in a country that tends to treat its sports stars with a little more nuance and respect than elsewhere.
He would find a familiar culture in Miami as Messi already owns a vacation home in the area. He reportedly loves the area and would enjoy living in a city known for merging Caribbean, North and South American cultures.
Ultimately, however, neither side needs this step. If Messi doesn’t get into MLS, the league will just carry on. Teams will sign more players like Argentinian world champion Thiago Almada, who may be the next young player to be sold by an MLS team for millions.
And Messi? He’ll be fine no matter what he does. Whether he continues at PSG, returns to Argentina or Barcelona or, like Ronaldo, finds a new adventure in the Middle East, his legacy is certain. If it hasn’t been before, his exploits in Qatar have certainly cemented his place in history.
The MLS’s courtship of Ronaldo fell through as the league failed to bring a football titan to the United States. However, what we have learned from this failure is that the dream of signing a player of this caliber is very much alive. All the elements are there, even if they didn’t quite add up, to convince Ronaldo to give up the millions he will make in Saudi Arabia.
Now attention will turn to his great rival. A player who could end up doing what Ronaldo failed to do: become the man who would take American football to a new stratosphere.