Inter Miami owner Jorge Mas opens up on Messi deal, other roster moves, stadium status

After going “dark and silent for a significant amount of time”, Inter Miami managing owner Jorge Mas broke his silence on the impending Lionel Messi deal, its impact on the team and Major League Soccer, and the status of Miami Freedom Park.

He confirmed during a wide-ranging conversation with a small group of reporters that Messi and the club have agreed to terms and are finalizing paperwork and visas. The target date for his first game in a Miami uniform is July 21 at DRV PNK Stadium for the Leagues Cup opener against Mexican team Cruz Azul.

A source with knowledge of the negotiations said it is a two-and-a-half-year deal worth $50 million to $60 million per year with an option for 2026. It will include salary, bonuses and equity in the club upon the end of his playing days. Mas stressed that there is no direct subsidy from the league and “absolutely no changes in the roster rules. There are no categories or anything that is being changed to incorporate Lionel Messi on to inter Miami’s roster.”

Deals with MLS commercial partners Adidas, Apple, and others are still pending, according to league sources.

Mas called Messi’s imminent signing “the one seminal moment” in U.S. soccer history, adding “I think there will always be a before and after Messi when we talk about the sport in the United States. I have a very, very strong held belief that we can create in North America and the United States if not the greatest league, one of the top two leagues in the world. I cannot over emphasize the magnitude of this announcement.

“Having the world’s greatest player here is something that is significant for our league, and for the football ecosystem in the United States…Lionel Messi is coming to this country to win cups and make a difference. I think it’s incumbent upon myself and my partners in the league, the other owners, to seize the moment.”

Among the topics Mas addressed…

Increased capacity at DRV PNK Stadium in anticipation of Messi’s arrival: “We have already contracted to fill in the corners of the stadium that should increase capacity by approximately 3,000 to 3,200 seats (New capacity: 22,000 to 22,200). We are gearing up to do that work in the next four weeks. Every game will be sold out. The demand for tickets has been 10 times what we can handle on a season ticket basis.”

Update on Miami Freedom Park construction: “Since we signed a lease in February we applied for permits we anticipate getting the go ahead to start doing all of the remediation, utilities, etc. any day now. That’s imminent. I would anticipate starting hopefully in the next two weeks. We’re going to be fast tracking everything, targeting having the stadium ready at some point in the summer or early fall of 2025.” He added that the club seats and VIP areas will be enhanced as Messi will be part of the team when they inaugurate the stadium.

Additional security measures for Messi: “Security will obviously be enhanced. Players will be bussed in, going through a tunnel. All of those security protocols are already prepared both for here and away. And it’s not only for our games. It’s going to be an everyday occurrence and something we witnessed and I thought handled very well when (Messi) was here with Argentina before the World Cup. As you may recall, Argentina trained in Miami before they flew over to to Doha. Where we had an opportunity to see some of the Messi mania at our doors on an everyday basis during practice. So, we’re very prepared. We’ve been getting ready for this.”

Status of talks with Messi’s former Barcelona teammate Sergio Busquets: Mas would not discuss the negotiations with the Spanish midfielder, but a league source confirmed that the two sides are finalizing a deal and Busquets would occupy one of the team’s three Designated Player spots.

How many roster moves expected?: “We’ve been preparing our roster for Messi’s arrival in ’23, so we left an enormous amount of flexibility. We will be making additional signings during the summer window, more than what people anticipate. We do not have to dismantle our team. We do not have to clean house, but I can say we will potentially be making between three and five signings.”

Mas posted a cryptic Tweet on Monday of three blank pink jerseys hanging in the locker room with the caption: Coming Soon. Si.” He would not comment on specific players who have been linked to the team, such as former Barcelona left back Jordi Alba, Uruguayan star Luis Suarez, or Argentine winger Angel di Maria, who just left Juventus.

The coach search: Phil Neville, who led the team the past two and a half seasons, was fired on June 1. Mas said there are three finalists for the job, and confirmed published reports that one of them is Tata Martino, a native of Argentina who led Atlanta United to the 2018 MLS Cup and has coached Messi with Barcelona and the Argentine national team. He did not mention the names of other finalists.

How Messi can change MLS: “Lionel Messi is going to be the greatest ambassador and recruiter in the history of Major League Soccer. His mere presence in this league is going to be attracting talent of all ages and all levels. It is, I think, a tremendous and unprecedented opportunity that we have ahead of us. And I think that all of us collectively will take the right steps to make sure to put this league in the hyper growth that it deserves.

“This is an amazing event for the league, for all the owners and every team in Major League Soccer. This will be a rising tide on all fronts.”