Argentina legend Lionel Messi will join American side Inter Miami after his exit from French champions Paris St-Germain.
Messi, 35, had a more lucrative offer from Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal while a return to Barcelona became an impossibility because of Financial Fair Play (FFP) limitations.
“I’ve taken the decision that I am going to Miami,” Messi told newspapers Diario Sport and Mundo Deportivo.
“[I decided] to leave Europe.”
He added: “It’s true that I had offers from another European team but I didn’t even think about it because in Europe, my idea was only to go to Barcelona.
“After winning the World Cup and not being able to go to Barca, it’s time to go to MLS to live football in a different way and enjoy my day to day life more.
“Obviously with the same responsibility and desire to win, and to do things well, but with more calm.”
The ex-Barcelona forward was keen on a return to the Catalan club this summer but the FFP limitations that will be in place for next season in La Liga made any ambitious plan to bring him back an impossibility.
The Spanish club were unable to keep Messi in 2021, leading to a tearful news conference as he left the Nou Camp and signed for PSG.
“I was afraid that it would happen again,” he said.
“I really wanted, I was very excited to be able to return [to Barcelona], but after having experienced what I experienced and the exit I had, I did not want to be in the same situation again – waiting to see what was going to happen.
“I heard that they had to sell players or lower players’ salaries and the truth is that I didn’t want to go through that, nor take charge of obtaining something that had to do with all that.”
Barcelona later released a statement saying Messi had chosen a Miami move over an offer from the Catalan club.
“President [Joan] Laporta understood and respected Messi’s decision to want to compete in a league with fewer demands, further away from the spotlight and the pressure he has been subject to in recent years,” it added.
Messi’s first venture outside Europe
The Miami deal includes collaboration from brands like Adidas and Apple.
Messi won the Ballon d’Or award for the world’s best player seven times and is expected to win it later this year after World Cup success.
This is the first time Barcelona icon Messi has played outside Europe.
With a Barcelona return failing to materialise, he had the straight choice between Inter Miami or Al-Hilal.
He was heavily tipped to be favouring a move to Saudi Arabia, where he would have joined Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in the league in a deal that could not be matched financially.
But Messi was ultimately tempted to Major League Soccer (MLS) side Inter Miami for a variety of reasons including lifestyle, and a deal with big brands that extends beyond football.
He already owns a house in Miami, which he rents out.
Paris St-Germain won Ligue 1 in both his seasons at the club but went out in the Champions League last 16, which means his time in France was not seen as a huge success.
He netted 32 goals in 75 games for the club – and ended this season with 16 goals and 16 assists in Ligue 1.
Messi’s two-year contract comes to an end this summer and both parties agreed to go their separate ways, with the forward suspended for two weeks in May for an unauthorised trip to Saudi Arabia.
His legacy comes from his time at Barcelona and winning the World Cup with Argentina in December.
He left Barca in 2021, after 21 years with the club, because of the club’s financial problems.
Messi is Barcelona’s record scorer with 672 goals and won 10 La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues and seven Spanish Cups.
‘If it was about money I’d have gone to Saudi’
Messi said he had chatted with close friend Xavi, the Barcelona manager, about returning to the club but “very little, once or twice at most” with president Joan Laporta.
“We were very excited, because when something came out we would discuss if he really wanted me to come back, if it was good for the team and for him, and we kept in communication,” Messi said.
“We never even got to talk about the contract. A proposal was passed over, but never a formal, written, signed proposal, because there was still nothing and we did not know if it was going to be possible or not.
“There was the intention, but we couldn’t advance anything, we didn’t even talk about money formally.
“If it had been a matter of money I would have gone to Saudi Arabia or elsewhere.”