We rarely get an honest, behind-the-scenes look at how sports teams land athletes. But Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas went into detail about how the soccer club managed to sign Lionel Messi.
Speaking on the new podcast Offside with Taylor Twellman, Mas explained that he—along with his brother José and fellow co-owner David Beckham—started reaching out to Messi’s camp many years ago, according to MLSSoccer. They held several in-person meetings in London, Barcelona, and the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner’s birth city of Rosario. But a real turning point was in September 2022 at Argentina’s pre-World Cup training camp at Inter Miami’s facility, where Mas helped Messi see that the superstar’s future was with M.L.S.
“I was at the facility every day, and I had an opportunity to talk to Lionel extensively,” Mas said. “I asked him, ‘What are your aspirations? What are your dreams?’ Right? Like, ‘What do you want?’”
Of course, Messi was a highly sought-after free agent. The Saudi Arabian government reportedly offered him a $400 million annual contract to play for the country’s league following the expiration of his deal with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). The Saudi Pro League previously landed Cristiano Ronaldo and hoped to raise their profile with another high-profile athlete.
“We’re competing for the best player in the world with the powerhouses of global soccer and with endless money that we cannot compete with,” Mas said. “So, I had to try to find what makes Lionel Messi tick. What can we offer that someone else can’t?”
It was apparently the chance to make bigger waves that convinced the star forward that the U.S. should be his next move.
“In this country, Lionel Messi has the opportunity to change the sport,” Mas said. “If he would have stayed at PSG, wasn’t gonna change the sport. If he returned to Barcelona, either. And going to Saudi, wasn’t gonna change the sport there.”
So far, Mas has been satisfied with his new player’s performance. “Lionel Messi is a competitive beast. What I’ve seen in the last week, just in small little details and examples of things that he’s done with his teammates at the training center is amazing. [We] have high expectations, but mine, so far, in this very short time period of interacting with him, I’ve been blown away,” he said.