Messi named Time's 'Athlete of the Year'text_fields
Los Angeles: Lionel Messi has been named Time magazine's "Athlete of the Year" for 2023 following a brilliant season that included his groundbreaking transfer to Major League Soccer's Inter Miami and an eighth Ballon d'Or award.
According to Time, the Argentine sensation has already profoundly changed the American sports scene, which has always been slow to accept football.
"Lionel Messi this year managed to do what once seemed impossible when he signed with Inter Miami: turning the US into a soccer country," Time commented.
The 36-year-old Messi made his Miami debut in July after leaving Paris Saint-Germain with controversy, AFP reported.
A lucrative move to Saudi Arabia was rejected by the World Cup winner in favour of starting a new chapter in MLS.
The eight-time Ballon d'Or winner had an immediate positive effect on Miami's fortunes, as he was instrumental in the team's victory in the expanded Leagues Cup, a cross-border competition including teams from the Mexican top division and MLS
Messi had 11 goals in 14 games in all competitions before the end of the season, although he was unable to assist Miami advance to the playoffs due to an injury near the end of the campaign.
Time said that Messi had stated that a fairytale return to Barcelona had been his first choice following PSG, but that move had been put on hold due to the club's financial difficulties.
"I tried to return, and it did not happen," Messi said, adding that he was also "thinking a lot" about joining the wave of overseas players who have headed to the Saudi Pro League.
"It was Saudi Arabia or MLS, and both options seemed very interesting to me," Messi told the magazine.
According to Time, Messi's entrance caused a spike in attendance, ticket prices, merchandise sales, and viewership. It also revealed that on the day of his debut, Apple TV subscriptions—which owns the exclusive rights to MLS—rose by 110,000, a 1,700% rise from the day before.