6th December 2023 – (New York) The football world has not ceased to marvel at the prowess of Argentina’s Lionel Messi, recognised as Time magazine’s Athlete of the Year 2023. This accolade comes after the football maestro broke the record for the eighth time as the winner of the Ballon d’Or, and played an instrumental role in raising the profile of the sport in the United States following his transfer to Inter Miami.
Messi was pivotal in steering Argentina towards their first World Cup victory in 36 years, defeating the defending champions, France, in the final match in December last year.
Upon his departure from Paris St Germain earlier this year, the 36-year-old was inundated with appealing offers. Despite rumours of rejoining his old club Barcelona or a lucrative transition to Saudi team Al-Hilal, Messi elected to ink a contract with Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami.
“The reality is that I was fortunate to have several intriguing options on the table, and it required careful consideration, including discussions with my family, before reaching the final decision to move to Miami,” Messi shared with Time.
Messi’s impact on Miami was immediate and significant, recording 10 goals in seven Leagues Cup appearances and leading the team to secure the tournament trophy. The competition features teams from the MLS and Mexico.
The Argentinian’s migration to the United States didn’t just create ripples on the pitch but also sparked an unprecedented surge of interest off the field. Fans flocked to the internet, eagerly searching for match dates and tickets to witness the football legend in action, with many purchasing his official pink Inter Miami shirt.
The influx of Messi enthusiasts led to a sharp increase in ticket prices for Inter Miami games. Furthermore, Apple TV, which holds a 10-year partnership with the MLS, witnessed a significant rise in subscriptions, as reported by research firm Antenna.
“Messi accomplished what was once considered unachievable: transforming the U.S. into a football-loving nation,” Time magazine noted.
The Time Athlete of the Year accolade has been bestowed upon a number of notable names in recent years, including Simone Biles, LeBron James, and the United States women’s soccer team. Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees was the recipient in 2022.