Messi will make Miami capital of futbol world — or it will be fans who get jilted | Opinion

Miami

“Messi-to-Miami” has become a full-blown saga, and one brilliantly developed, I must say.

The central characters are Lionel Messi, Argentine G.O.A.T. of G.O.A.T.s, the world’s greatest and most famous soccer player, and David Beckham, handsome British icon poised to close the biggest deal in all of sports and make Greater Miami the capital of the world.

This is either the slowest, most drawn-out courtship in the history of romance ... or the most brilliant scheme to sell season tickets in the history of sports. I do not believe it is the latter; that would require a concert of duplicitous gall beyond the pale.

Could it be both? Either way, Miami and South Florida, Major League Soccer and global futbol watch and wait (and wait, and wait) as Messi plots his next move.

The Sunday Times of London, respected journalistic pillar in the birthplace of soccer, reported this weekend past that Messi would sign with Inter Miami next summer, when the 2022-23 European season has ended and his contract with Paris Saint-Germain has, too. And that he would become the highest-paid player in MLS history (although that may have gone without saying).

It was the most definitive, unequivocal report yet that this will happen. There has been a three-year trail of bread crumbs and tea leaves suggesting it might, but this was news indicating it is happening. Inter Miami officials say nothing is finalized but admitted to the Miami Herald that talks are in “advanced” stages.

Messi and Argentina are in the midst of the men’s World Cup. Tuesday the U.S. team faces a must-win match vs. Iran to stay alive. But in Miami right now, the reinvigorated imagination conjuring Messi in an Inter Miami uniform demands attention even as sports’ greatest tournament goes on in Qatar.

It can hardly be overstated -- the magnitude of what Messi coming to Miami would mean.

Tyreek Hill coming to the Dolphins in a mega-trade was huge in the NFL but would be an appetizer by global scale, one of those hors d’oeuvres they pass around on silver trays.

LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach and the Heat in 2010 would be at least comparable from an American perspective -- but merely a side dish internationally.

Messi playing in MLS for Inter Miami would instantly make the club’s temporary stadium in Fort Lauderdale comically small. It makes the new stadium being built near the Miami airport too small, too.

Messi with Inter Miami could fill Hard Rock Stadium like a Dolphins-Bills game.

If you have Inter Miami season tickets today at 19,000-seat DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, and Messi truly is coming next summer, you have hit the lottery. You suddenly enjoy an added revenue stream in your life, because you hold the hottest tickets in town. And it’s a seller’s market. Name your price for’23 opening day if Messi is playing. Somebody will pay it.

Messi even at 35 remains an other-worldly talent hardly diminished. Inter Miami getting him would grade an “A” from a soccer/winning perspective but an off-the-charts “A-plus” in other ways. He alone would make Miami the biggest thing in MLS, and maybe the biggest thing in town.

Move over, Dolphins and Heat. Neither of you have a star to equal Messi.

Now fathom this:

What Inter Miami is planning isn’t just Messi. Imagine...

Fellow superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, just past an ugly divorce from Manchester United, has been mentioned for Miami, though Team Beckham has expressed no interest. More likely, according to reports, perhaps one of Messi’s former Barcelona teammates with whom he and the wives vacation, Luis Suarez or Cesc Fabregas, might come along for the ride. Barca’s Sergio Busqet also has been linked.

MLS transfer rules and salary restrictions suggest perhaps one of them could join Messi in coming to Miami.

None of these men is futbol-young. De facto, Inter Miami’s new nickname would be the Mid-Thirties.

But we are not talking long-term plan here.

We are talking a two-or three-year thrill ride.

Yes, please.

Now all David Beckham has to do is seal the deal, because no good excuse will be available to him or principal owner Jorge Mas if they do not.

Their club has been openly wooing Messi and teasing the possibility for a long time, rather brazenly. Messi to Miami has been dangled before the masses, carrot before horse, driving interest. It has been an implied promise. They better deliver.

After a tease this big and a courtship this long — and now the new report that Messi-to-Miami is a marriage all but set — South Florida is ready to throw a wedding party like no other.

It must happen now. Miami soccer fans will have every right to feel misled, to feel like the ones jilted, if, after all of this, it does not.