Photo: beInsports

Luis Suarez played his last game this month with Gremio Porto Alegre after the Brazilian club waved his last year contract because of a chronic knee injury. The Uruguayan even had suggested he would end his career immediately though the rumor he would join Inter Miami spread even before Messi’s signing.

By Guamacice Delice

With Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba joined in the midst of the last season, Inter Miami won its first trophy, a League Cup, in 2023. It gathered eight victories out of 14 games, and Messi scored 11 times.   

Inter Miami made it public on Dec. 22. It engaged the Uruguayan Luis Suarez for a one-year contract that adds the striker to the contingent of former Barcelona’s players already in the team, the club announce via it website. Suarez played his last game at the beginning of the month with the Brazilian club Gremio Porto Alegre where he spent the last 11 months scoring 27 goals and distributing 17 assists in 54 games.

“We are happy to welcome world class striker Luis Suarez to our club,” the club wrote. “Luis is a fierce competitor whose winning drive embodies what we want out of our players. We promised our fans we would pursue the world’s best players to build a squad that can compete at the highest echelons in the Americas.”

As the agreement is finalized, Suarez, whose nickname is El Pistolero, The Gunfire, will reunite with his former teammates Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba recruited in the midst of the last season. His signing is part of the club’s management team’s commitment to live up to Messi’s standard of high level of competitiveness and professionalism that would lead to a successful 2024-25 season.

The player told the club’s website that he was “very happy and excited to take on this new challenge with Inter Miami.” He promised to give his “all to bring joy to these great fans I’ve heard so much about while I wear Inter Miami colors, and look forward to reuniting with great friends and players.”

Throughout his career, Suarez won one UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup, one Conmebol Copa América winner and LaLiga championships.

Three weeks ago, Inter Miami’s chief soccer officer and sporting director neither confirmed nor had denied the former Liverpool’s striker was in talks in order to land in his club. Chris Henderson admitted however that many players wanted to be part of his team just to play with Leonel Messi.

Henderson said that the recruiting team insists on applying the seven steps they are used to taking when hiring a player to make sure they get the right one. Yet, Inter Miami proposes to invest more money in its health and performance department to be at the high standard of work Messi is used to.

Yet, most MLS’s teams want to take advantage of the enthusiasm aroused by Messi’s presence. 

The recruitment of Lionel Messi is believed to increase Inter Miami’s hope of winning a second trophy after their 2023 League Cup. From investments on the Argentinian star and other players officials expect considerable financial returns.

Messi won the FIFA world cup in 2023 and an eighth France Football Ballon d’Or. This week the Magazine Time named him the Athlete of the Year.

Yet, most MLS’s teams want to take advantage of the enthusiasm aroused by Messi’s presence. The hope for money gain is even spreading across the league, and the Floridian club’s competitors are set to increase the price of their ticket packages every time they host the David Beckam backed squad.

After evaluating the team’s roster last Summer, Henderson told he had high hopes Inter Miami will succeed in the 2023-2024 MLS season. He said that necessary changes will be made to strengthen the team as it is engaging in several competitions, including MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup.

Even though the 2022-23 season has yet to end, with the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs taking place through December 9, Inter Miami is building on at least the three next seasons. Messi’s contract contains an option to be extended to 2026.

 Investing up to Lionel Messi’s standard  

No details leaked about Suarez commitment conditions especially since the player was announced driving toward an end of career because of a chronic knee injury. Gremio president Alberto Guerra had even admitted in June that the player was “getting towards his limit.” The player himself had evoked the intensity and the Brazilian soccer’s busy calendar to justify an agreement with Gremio that waived his last year of contract.

Requests for comments from Inter Miami leadership and from Lionel Messi are waiting for responses. Meanwhile, the Argentinian captain has become the highest paid player in the league, with an annual salary of $20.4 million, compensations excluded, according to the 2023 salary guide by MLS Players Association.

Messi’s salary is way more than the Italian Lorenzo Insigne (Toronto FC, $7.5 million), the Suisse player Xherdan Shaqiri (Chicago Fire, $ 7.350 million), and the Mexican Javier Hernandez (Los Angeles Galaxy, $6 million).

And Inter Miami may have a thousand reasons to bear such a hope. The team won a trophy and eight out its 14 last games with these three new players in 2023, though this was insufficient to push it into the playoffs. Yet, the personal stats of the former PSG player are 11 goals and five assists.

However, the recruitment staff has no intent to rely only on these three new players. They plan to scout the local and international market, beginning with the list of 2024 free agents, a list of local players free from any contract or whose contract contains an option allowing them to sign elsewhere.

Higher ticket price for hosting Inter Miami

In terms of return on investments, every team usually looks for advertisement and promotional contracts with commercial companies. The affluence in the stadiums is another great source of money. Inter Miami sets out to considerably raise its ticket prices for the upcoming season.

According to the Miami Herald, a lower-level midfield section’s ticket price is being raised to more than 100% in 2024. The New York Times goes as far as to write that the Floridian franchise is raising its ticket package from 46% to 82% depending on the section, which places the club among the priciest season tickets in the world.

Other MLS clubs, especially those Inter Miami has to play with, are taking advantage of the enthusiasm sparked by Messi’s presence. Most of them, counting New York Red Bulls and New York City FC, are waiting for the release of new season schedule to send out their ticket packages. The New York Times reports that the lowest ticket price to see Columbus Crew hosting Inter Miami FC in 2024 is $382. Before, it was just $40.

The Major League Soccer regular season occurs between February and October. The playoffs games take place within the two last months of the year. The 2022-23 season final is set to be played on December 9 between the winner of the Western Conference Los Angeles FC and the champion of the Eastern Conference Columbus Crew. 

Inter Miami was created in 2018 and started playing as the 25th franchise of Major League Soccer in 2020. The American billionaire businessman Jorge Mas is its majority shareholder, with the former English soccer star David Beckham being a co-owner and the current president. 

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