Lionel Messi called Major League Soccer ‘a minor league’ in an interview in Argentina about whether he will play in the 2026 World Cup that will be held in the United States.
Messi joined David Beckham’s Inter Miami in a landmark moment for the team and the league, with MLS allowing his $60million-a-year deal to be part-funded by Apple and adidas. It could run through to 2026.
Apple are paying into the deal through subscriptions taken out to watch him play in the league, while adidas give him a cut of the Miami jerseys that are sold with his name on the back.
While the league is not at the standard of the Spanish or French leagues Messi competed in during his time in Europe, the quotes emerging from an interview with Argentina – where he reflects on last year’s World Cup win and his future at international level – make for awkward reading.
When asked about the 2026 tournament, Messi said: ‘I said it several times and it is a reality – I will always try to compete to the maximum and I am the first to know when I can be there and when I can’t.
Lionel Messi referred to Major League Soccer as ‘a minor league’ in an interview in Argentina
Messi joined Inter Miami earlier this year on a $60-million-a-year contract with the team
‘I am also aware that I went to a minor league, but a lot happens because of the way one faces it and competes.’
Messi said that he is targeting playing in next summer’s Copa America for Argentina, which is also held in the US.
‘As long as I feel that I’m fine and I can continue contributing, I’m going to do it,’ Messi said.
‘Today the only thing I think about is getting to the Copa América well and being able to compete in it . Fighting it again like we always did, trying to be champions.’
Messi made an electrifying impact when he joined Miami in the summer – spearheading the team’s Leagues Cup triumph and scoring 11 goals in 14 games.
Miami also made the final of the US Open Cup but lost to Houston Dynamo with Messi missing the showpiece game through injury.
They also narrowly missed out on MLS’s post-season playoffs after making a disastrous start to the 2023 campaign under previous coach Phil Neville.
But his arrival in Miami changed the course of their season and leads to huge excitement for next season – his first full year in MLS.
Celebrities from across the US came out in force to see Messi in action as well – ranging from Kim Kardashian to LeBron James and Prince Harry.