Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

Arguably one of the greatest in football history, Lionel Messi has been named as Times magazine’s Athlete of the Year for 2023. The news comes after Messi won the 2023 Ballon d’Or for a record-extending eighth time, further elevating his status in football folklore.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi kisses the World Cup trophy after receiving the Golden Ball award as he celebrates after winning the World Cup.(Reuters)

Messi played a key role in Argentina’s victorious 2022 World Cup campaign, where he led them to the title, defeating France in the final. He was adjudged as the tournament’s Best Player and was also the second-highest goalscorer.

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Despite his World Cup victory, Messi failed to replicate similar form with PSG and departed them as a free agent in this year’s summer transfer window. His time in PSG could be considered a disappointment by his standards and he was also frequently jeered by the fans.

Initially, he was expected to return to Barcelona, whom he left in shocking circumstances in 2021 as a free agent, joining PSG. The development occurred after Barcelona couldn’t afford a new contract for him. But once again the Catalan club couldn’t afford him, and then he rejected offers from the Saudi Pro League, to join MLS side Inter Miami, which is also co-owned by former player David Beckham.

Explaining his transfer to Inter Miami, Messi told Time, “The truth is that fortunately, I had several options on the table that were interesting, and I had to analyze them and think, even weigh them up with my family, before making the final decision to come to Miami.”

“My first option was to return to Barcelona, but it was not possible. I tried to return, and it did not happen. It is also true that later I was thinking a lot about going to the Saudi league, where I know the country and they have created a very powerful competition that can become an important league in the near future.

“As the country’s tourism ambassador, it was a destination that attracted me, especially because I’ve enjoyed everything I have visited, because of how football is growing in the country and because of the effort they are putting into creating a top competition. it was Saudi Arabia or MLS, and both options seemed very interesting to me,” he added.

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