Lionel Messi has turned down an extremely lucrative offer from Saudi Arabia to move to Major League Soccer. Credit: PA/Martin Rickett
A penny, or perhaps several hundred million dollars, for the thoughts of former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon.
In 2007, he was known to be at the head of a rather long line of naysayers who seemed offended by David Beckham's decision to join the LA Galaxy instead of remaining among the traditional football aristocracy.
Also , as was the offer of a new one After a two-year deal with Madrid, Beckham controversially dismissed interest from both Milan clubs, Arsenal and Tottenham, in a Major League Soccer deal, prompting Calderón to sullenly dismiss the 31-year-old as “an average movie actor, living in Hollywood.”
Sixteen years later, with Lionel Messi ready to join Beckham at Inter Miami, the splendor of what sports analyst Joe Pompliano now calls “one of the greatest sports deals of all time” continues to pay dividends.
This too is a reminder to everyone, in any society, of the value of long-term settlements in immediate and stressful situations.
While the headlines in January 2007 focused on Beckham's salary and the innovative link to the income he would help generate, the genius of the deal was in a paragraph that initially attracted only minor interest.
It stated that Beckham would have the option, when he retires, to buy an MLS “expansion” team at a flat rate of $25 million. That was 2.5 times what Toronto had paid to enter the MLS that year and, with no place certainty, a point of dubious future value.
Messi was still a teenager then, but quickly in 2023, football's GOAT finds itself on Beckham's team in Florida, at the Inter Miami club, which played its first match just three years ago.
Beckham celebrates winning the MLS Cup with the Galaxy, his second title with the team. Photo: Getty images/Robyn Deck
And the cost of this club? Estimates in January were almost $600 million, but if you add Messi and the prospect of building a new stadium, the figure rises to $1 billion. Or, in other words, a 40-fold (and seemingly growing) increase in this once hypothetical clause in Beckham's contract.
It should be emphasized that Beckham's actual share of the club is currently around 25%, and he is listed by the club as a co-owner with Florida billionaires Jorge and José Mas. Messi could also get a share in the deal this week, but Beckham's franchise remains the best of his many commercial deals, according to at least one industry source.
Speaking on the Joe Pompa podcast, Pompliano calculated that Beckham's move to the 2007 MLS had already netted him over $500 million, and while he describes it as “a win-win for David Beckham and the league,” he says “the reality is that he was a true winner.”
Like many of Beckham's other victories, it was also a testament to his always exceptionally stubborn belief in himself. He arrived in the US before the “reach” of personality could be so accurately tracked on social media, but under the guidance of his astute 19 Entertainment management team, he backed himself up to generate interest and inspire other stars to follow him.
The average MLS attendance is now 40% higher than when Beckham arrived, but success was not instantaneous and it wasn't until 2012 that LA Galaxy won the first of their back-to-back MLS titles.
When Beckham then jumped at the chance to buy the franchise, various robberies at the stadium meant that Inter Miami was only founded in 2018 and didn't play games until 2020. The transition of Messi, obviously, has also been preparing for a long time.
The Argentinian congratulated Beckham on the birth of Inter Miami five years ago, saying: “Who knows, maybe in a few years you can call me.”
It was also reported about his transfers in 2021 when he left Barcelona for the first time. Earlier this season, Beckham and Messi were photographed together at PSG's training ground, a meeting that was followed by a flurry of public praise. >Messi's influence (left) undoubtedly surpasses that of David Beckham (centre) with the LA Galaxy as the Argentine takes the sport to the next level. Photo: Getty Images/Aurelien Meunier
“I love Leo for a variety of reasons,” Beckham told ESPN Argentina. “I love him because he is a great father. I love him because he is a great personality. But I think everyone in him likes the way he plays. He plays the game with passion. He plays for free.”
However, mutual appreciation will never be enough. The Messi family's exposure to Miami has been a big attraction, and as with Beckham in 2007, the deal is also full of unusual clauses, not least in regards to the revenue generated by Apple's MLS broadcast partners and Adidas kit sponsors.
With the 2026 FIFA World Cup taking place in North America, there is growing hope that Messi's fame will take American football to even greater heights. And if that happens, Beckham – a trailblazing player-turned-owner – will see the significance of these 2007 talks only grow.