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SPORTS | 07-06-2023 14:13

Messi set to snub Saudi mega deal and move to Inter Miami

Speculation over Lionel Messi's next move seems to be drawing to a close: various outlets worldwide say Argentina skipper has agreed a deal to move MLS side Inter Miami, rebuffing a mega-bucks offer from Saudi Arabia.

Argentine superstar Lionel Messi is heading to the United States to join MLS side Inter Miami, co-owned by David Beckham, various media outlets reported on Wednesday.

The MLS side had declined to speculate over a move for the World Cup winner last week, with a mega buck switch to Saudi Arabia appearing the most likely destination for the 35-year-old.

Without quoting any sources, the BBC, The Independent and Marca amongst others named Miami as Messi's new club following the end of his two-year contract this month with French Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

A number of outlets and reporters echoed that in Argentina, with high-profile football transfer journalist Fabrizio Romano also confirmed a deal with MLS has been reached.

Confirmation of the deal is expected in the coming hours.

Messi has not announced which club side he will play for next, but previous reports and a source close to the negotiations suggested he could join Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and World Cup-winning French midfielder N'Golo Kante on a lucrative contract to play in Saudi Arabia.

Messi, along with Benzema and Kante, was on a list of 10 targets who have been contacted by Saudi officials, a source close to the negotiations told AFP this week.

But if Wednesday's reports prove accurate it is Florida and not Jeddah that will be Messi's new destination.

The Argentina skipper has property in the United States and the Argentine Football Association (AFA) is setting up a training facility in the region. The United States is due to co-host the 2030 World Cup, along with Canada and Mexico.

Inter Miami sacked coach Phil Neville last week, replacing the Englishman with Messi's compatriot Javier Morales.

There is now a distinctly Argentine feel to the Miami club, which has a strong South American fan base – as well as Morales, goalkeeping coach Sebastián Saja played four times for the national side and eight years with Argentine club San Lorenzo.

Federico Higuaín, the brother of former Argentina and Real Madrid forward Gonzalo, is the head coach of Inter's reserve team, assisted by compatriot Cristián Raúl Ledesma.

Rumours are also circulating that ex-Atlanta United, Barcelona Argentina and Mexico manager Gerardo Martino is set to join the club as head coach in the coming days.

Some reports have speculated that the move for Messi will be part-funded by Adidas, the star's sponsor, and by Apple.

 

New documentary

On Tuesday streaming platform Apple TV+ announced a four-part documentary series on Argentina's seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi.

The service said the series would feature "exclusive behind-the-scenes access" to the football megastar, who scored seven goals as tjhe Albiceleste lifted the World Cup in Qatar in December.

"In his own words, Messi tells the definitive story of his incredible career with the Argentina national football team, providing an intimate and unprecedented look at his quest for a legacy-defining World Cup victory," Apple TV+ said in a statement.

No broadcast date was given for the documentary, which will be produced by Smuggler Entertainment and was filmed in Paris, Qatar and Argentina.

The series will retrace Messi's international career, starting with his debut for Argentina in 2005 when he was sent off two minutes after coming on as a substitute and including defeat in the 2014 World Cup final.

It will culminate with the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner's lifting of football's ultimate prize last year at his fifth World Cup.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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