During the first part of 2023, Lionel Messi’s future caused plenty of speculation. The 36-year-old, fresh from guiding Argentina to World Cup glory, was expected to leave Paris Saint-Germain upon expiry of his contract there, and several next steps were possible.
In the end, Messi opted to go to MLS side Inter Miami, where he has made a big impact since arriving in July. However, as he told TIME (via MD) after being named as the magazine’s Athlete of the Year, heading to the United States wasn’t his first choice.
“The truth is that I had several options on the table that were interesting, and I had to analyse them and think about them, even weigh them with my family, before making the final decision to come to Miami.
“My first option was to go back to Barcelona, but it wasn’t possible. I tried to go back and it didn’t happen. It’s also true that afterwards I was thinking a lot about going to the Saudi league, where I know the country and they have created a very powerful competition that can become an important league in the near future. In the end, it was either Saudi Arabia or MLS, and I found both options very interesting.”
Barcelona pushed heavily to re-sign Messi, but their ongoing financial woes meant that he decided against returning, which led to his move to Inter Miami. It was a decision that greatly disappointed the Catalan club at the time, although all parties have moved on now.