Europe 1 with AFP / Photo credit: Zhang Chen / XINHUA / Xinhua via AFP 19:30 p.m., June 20, 2023

The date of Lionel Messi's debut with his club Inter Miami is now known. The Argentinian world champion should start on July 21 in his new colors. Linked to the American club for a two-and-a-half-year contract, Lionel Messi will be the attraction of MLS this season.

Lionel Messi is expected to make his debut with Inter Miami on July 21, said Tuesday the owner of the club of the North American championship (MLS), which the Argentine world champion has chosen to join. In an interview with the Miami Herald published on Tuesday, Jorge Mas said Messi was likely to play his first game for Inter against Mexican club Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup, a North American competition jointly organized by MLS and the Mexican Football Federation.

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Two-and-a-half-year contract

Lionel Messi, 35, revealed on June 7 his choice to go to Miami, after two years at Paris Saint-Germain. "I decided I was going to Miami, I didn't have (a deal) 100 percent or maybe there are still things to do, but we decided to continue our journey there... It's time to go to MLS to experience football in a different way," the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner told Spanish newspapers Diario Sport and Mundo Deportivo before Inter Miami confirmed the news on Twitter.

The Miami Herald, citing a source familiar with the negotiations, revealed that Messi was joining the club on a two-and-a-half-year contract and a maximum of $60 million per year. The contract also provides for a stake in the capital of the club "at the end of his playing career", according to the newspaper. For Inter owner Jorge Mas, Messi's arrival in MLS will be a "decisive moment" in the history of football in the United States. "I think there will always be a before and after Messi when it comes to sport in the United States," he told the Herald.

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An "important event"

"I firmly believe that we can create in North America and the United States, if not the biggest league, one of the two biggest leagues in the world. The arrival of the greatest player in the world is an important event for our league and for the football ecosystem in the United States. Lionel Messi comes to this country to win titles and make a difference," he added.

Inter Miami are reportedly in talks to bring Messi's former teammate Sergio Busquets to Florida as the names of other players have circulated - such as his former Barca partners Jordi Alba and Luis Suarez, or his compatriot Angel Di Maria. "We have prepared our squad for the arrival of Messi in 2023, which has left us a huge margin of maneuver," said Jorge Mas, who envisages "between three and five additional recruits".