Lionel Messi is one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen and he proved his worth again by clinching another title to his name. Messi who plays for Inter Miami star has been given TIME’s Athlete of the Year 2023 for his brilliant run ever since he started playing in MLS. On the back of this award, he also joined the high-profile list of athletes including LeBron James, and Aaron Judge after winning the title.
On the other hand, the Athlete of the Year award is new with the first honour given out in 2019. Messi is the first non-American player to win the award.
Messi has been a stalwart in the game as he has won a number of awards including the Ballon d’Or title and now after beating the likes of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, he received the TIME award. Tennis legend Novak Djokovic was also in the race after winning the Australian Open, French Open, and US Open in 2023.
“The truth is that fortunately, I had several options on the table that were interesting, and I had to analyze them and think, even weigh them up with my family, before making the final decision to come to Miami,” Messi said after receiving the award.
Beyond individual accolades, Messi’s impact has transcended the football pitch, notably through his transformative move to Inter Miami, a Major League Soccer (MLS) club in the United States.
How did Lionel Messi manage to grab the prestigious accolade?
Record-Breaking Ballon d’Or Win
Lionel Messi’s exceptional skills and consistent excellence on the field have earned him the Ballon d’Or for an unprecedented eighth time. This achievement not only cements his personal legacy but also reflects his enduring influence on the global football stage. Messi’s ability to maintain a high level of performance year after year is a testament to his dedication and passion for the sport.
World Cup Triumph with Argentina
Messi played a pivotal role in Argentina’s triumph at the 2022 World Cup, securing their first title in 36 years. The Argentine captain led his team to victory in a thrilling final against defending champions France. Messi’s performance in the tournament showcased his leadership and unmatched skill, leaving an indelible mark on the history of Argentine football.
Choosing Inter Miami over Other Offers
Amidst considerable speculation about his next move after leaving Paris St Germain, Lionel Messi surprised many by choosing to sign with Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami. Despite tempting offers from his former club Barcelona and the allure of a lucrative deal with Saudi side Al-Hilal, Messi opted for a new challenge in the rapidly growing American soccer scene.
Impact at Inter Miami
Lionel Messi’s arrival at Inter Miami had an immediate and profound impact. In seven Leagues Cup appearances, he scored an impressive 10 goals, propelling the team to victory in the tournament that features MLS teams and sides from Mexico. Messi’s contributions on the field have not only elevated the performance of his teammates but have also ignited a newfound enthusiasm for soccer in the USA.
Beyond the playing field, Lionel Messi’s move to Inter Miami caused ripples of excitement among fans and sports enthusiasts. The announcement led to a surge in searches for match dates and tickets, reflecting the heightened interest in witnessing Messi’s magic firsthand. Fans also flocked to purchase the official pink Inter Miami shirt, symbolising the impact of Messi’s brand on the American soccer market.
The Lionel Messi effect extended beyond merchandise and ticket sales. The price of tickets to Inter Miami games experienced a significant upswing, underlining the economic boost Messi brought to the club and the MLS. Moreover, Apple TV, in a 10-year partnership with the MLS, observed a notable increase in subscriptions, showcasing the power of Messi’s star appeal in driving media engagement.