Lionel Messi, 36, is a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and was named MVP of last year’s World Cup in Qatar, leading his native Argentina to its first victory in 36 years.
The “Son of God” made his debut on July 21 in the 54th minute for Inter Miami of the U.S. Professional League (MLS), and after the score was 1-1 going into stoppage time, he scored the game-winning goal in the 94th minute with a direct FK to send the 25,512 fans in the stadium into a frenzy. The estimated annual salary is 8 billion yen.
Miami has been on fire since Messi, whose salary is estimated at 8 billion yen a year, joined the club. The cheapest tickets for the day, which usually cost about $30 (about ¥4,200), soared to $265 (about ¥37,000). The most expensive ticket was bumped up to $110,000 (about 15,540,000 yen).
The number of followers on Inter Miami’s official Instagram page increased by 10 million, and Apple TV signed a 10-year, $2.5 billion (approx. ¥353.2 billion) exclusive distribution deal with MLS. Fanatics, a company that specializes in selling merchandise for professional sports teams, stated that “Inter Miami’s No. 10 sold more than any star player’s uniform” in the first four days of sales.
Atlanta United and Charlotte FC, who are set to play Inter Miami, each own stadiums that can hold 70,000 people, but have added seats on the top floor. Los Angeles FC’s tickets for the Miami game are already priced at 10 times the normal price.
Next season, Inter Miami is expected to generate at least $850 million (approximately 120 billion yen) in revenue from tickets alone due to the Messi effect, and with the addition of merchandise sales and distributions from broadcasting rights fees, the economic effect is “sky-high. Sergio Escudero, 59, a former member of the Argentine youth national team who also played for the Urawa Reds, said, “Even in his home country of Argentina, Messi is a very popular player.
Even in his native Argentina, Messi’s debut in the United States is a hot topic. For the past eight years, the MLS broadcasting rights fee was $90 million a year (about ¥12.7 billion), but it has nearly tripled, which is truly the Messi effect. Miami has the largest Argentine community in the United States, called Little Buenos Aires. It should be a comfortable place for Messi to live.”
His former Barcelona teammates, midfielder Sergio Busques (35) and defender Jordi Alba (34), and coach Gerardo Martino (60) are also part of the Miami community.
The Argentine Soccer Association is building a training facility near Miami. The goal is to bring young Argentine players to the United States and sign them to MLS contracts. Messi has reportedly purchased a luxury condominium near Miami. I think he is also looking to work after he retires. The transfer members are all veterans, but they will do well in the U.S.,” Escudero said.
With the advent of the “Son of God,” the American soccer world is beginning to change dramatically.
From the August 11, 2023 issue of FRIDAY
Reporting and writing： Soichi Hayashi (Nonfiction writer) PHOTO： Getty Images