Lionel Messi’s transfer to Inter Miami CF from Paris Saint-Germain has been the talk of the town, a bold testament to Major League Soccer’s growing stature on the world stage. However, the narrative that truly deserves our attention is the compelling tale of David Beckham, the man orchestrating this significant shift.
In his heyday, Beckham was no ordinary footballer. His sublime talent on the field and his superstar marriage to Victoria Beckham catapulted him into the limelight, landing him on the front pages as often as the sports sections. With a glamorous lifestyle and a string of remarkable performances, Beckham secured lucrative sponsorship deals, acquiring fame that transcended the borders of the football world.
The real magic, however, happened when his talent, entrepreneurial spirit, and astuteness converged when he signed for LA Galaxy in 2007. At a surprising 31 years of age and playing for Real Madrid’s so-called “galácticos,” he chose to shift to the relatively tame American league, taking a staggering 70 percent pay cut to do so.
What was the rationale behind such a seemingly counterintuitive move? It’s all about the shrewd business acumen at play. Beckham’s agreement was multifaceted, its intricate design eventually leading to the creation of an MLS team with substantial profit. As part of the arrangement, he had a clause that allowed him a share of all team revenue. Notably, he also negotiated the right to purchase an MLS expansion team for USD 25 million.
This deal brought about a seismic shift in the American soccer landscape. Beckham’s arrival catalyzed dramatic growth in the MLS, with attendance rising by 40 percent and the annual television deal soaring. After Beckham’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain in 2013, the league added seven new clubs and franchise values skyrocketed from USD 35 million in 2008 to USD 579 on average million today. Thus, Beckham’s strategic decision to establish his Inter Miami team in 2020 garnered him a significant discount.
While a monumental sporting event, the Messi saga is also a savvy business deal. The conversation around Messi’s move involved strategic discussions about offering Messi a slice of the revenue generated by new subscribers to the MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+, following MLS and Apple’s recent 10-year, USD 2.5 billion agreement. Simultaneously, a four-part documentary series tracing Messi’s World Cup journey was announced to stream on Apple TV+. Moreover, Adidas, one of MLS’ biggest corporate sponsors, has proposed a profit-sharing agreement, potentially giving Messi a portion of any profit increase tied to his involvement in the league.
The forthcoming 2026 World Cup, to be hosted across North America, has ignited both financial and athletic interest in football in the continent, underscored by increasing MLS team valuations and new franchises. Last month, British billionaire Mohamed Mansour led a $500 million purchase of a new MLS franchise, San Diego FC.
Messi’s transfer to Inter Miami CF is not just a sports story. It is an intricate business deal, a landmark media agreement, and a testament to the burgeoning soccer culture in North America. It’s as much about the Argentinian magician’s future endeavors as it is about the evolution of football in the U.S., a metamorphosis that Beckham has largely steered.
Despite Messi’s status as arguably the greatest footballer in history, the Beckham blueprint could offer some enlightening insights. In the world of football, where the line between sports and business continues to blur, the former English captain’s transition from a celebrated player to a shrewd businessman sets a compelling example.
Federico N. Fernández is a visionary leader dedicated to driving innovation and change. As the CEO of We Are Innovation, a global network of 30+ think tanks and NGOs, Federico champions innovative solutions worldwide. His expertise and passion for innovation have earned him recognition from prestigious publications such as The Economist, El País, Folha de São Paulo, and Newsweek. Federico has also delivered inspiring speeches and lectures across three continents, authored numerous scholarly articles, and co-edited several books on economics.