Should the deal be finalized, Messi’s signing would be the biggest coup for M.L.S. since it lured Beckham in 2007. That deal shifted perceptions of the league’s quality, and its ambitions, around the world; capturing Messi would, if anything, deliver even more attention to the league in the run-up to the 2026 World Cup.
Messi admitted, in his interview, that Miami had — perhaps — not been his first choice of destination as his contract at his most recent team, Paris St.-Germain, ran down.
Speaking to two outlets that dedicate much of their coverage to the club where he became the finest player of his generation, Barcelona, he made plain that, in an ideal world, he would have returned to Catalonia. He “obviously really wanted to return,” he said, and had discussed the idea with both Xavi Hernández, the club’s manager, and Joan Laporta, its president.
Ultimately, though, Barcelona’s financial turmoil forced his hand. “I heard they had to sell players or lower salaries and the truth is that I did not want to go through that,” he said, suggesting that he did not want to be held responsible for forcing Barcelona to adjust its squad simply to accommodate him.
“I wanted to make my own decision, thinking about myself and my family,” he said, describing a move away from Europe entirely as a chance to “look for something else, and find a little peace of mind.” After 20 years as one of — if not the — finest players on the planet, and seven months after leading Argentina to the World Cup, the one trophy that had previously eluded him, he said that he wanted to “get out of focus a bit, think about my family.”