Miami owner eyes Messi tribute game vs. Barca

Inter Miami managing owner Jorge Mas has said he is open to his team playing a game at Barcelona to allow Lionel Messi to bid farewell to his fans.

Since Messi left Barca for Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent in August 2021, there has been talk of a tribute match to honour the Argentina captain.

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“I gave [Messi] my commitment that I will do everything possible in the coming years so that he has the opportunity to say goodbye to his fans in Barcelona,” Mas told Marca on Monday.

“Inter Miami will go [to Barcelona] or we will have some kind of match. Messi’s departure from Barcelona was not to his liking, he could not say goodbye to his club, which welcomed him as a child, and I think the circumstances were not what Lionel wanted.”

Barca president Joan Laporta has previously mentioned that it would be fitting for Messi’s tribute to coincide with the official opening of the revamped Spotify Camp Nou stadium, planned for the 2025-26 campaign.

The LaLiga champions are playing at the Olympic Stadium in Montjuic in the meantime.

Lionel Messi has turned Inter Miami’s fortunes around since joining the club from Paris-Saint Germain. Harry How/Getty Images

The annual Joan Gamper trophy, Barca’s traditional curtain-raiser held in August, has also been reported in the past as a potential tribute event for Messi.

Messi had considered a return to Barca before joining the MLS side after his contract with PSG expired in June.

The World Cup winner has scored 11 goals in 12 matches this season with Inter Miami, which has not lost a game with him on the pitch.

Messi also guided Inter Miami to its first trophy when it lifted the Leagues Cup in August.

– Messi tracker: All goals, assists and moments at Inter Miami

“I think everything has changed with him,” Mas said of Messi’s impact on MLS. “The MLS is another. Every time we play away from home, the stadiums are full.

“The reception for Lionel has been extraordinary. The game in New York, with almost 30,000 fans and 80% shouting Messi’s name … there were Albiceleste and pink Inter Miami T-shirts. … It shocked me, I wasn’t expecting that. There will be a before and after Messi’s arrival to the MLS.”

However, Mas said that he expected that Messi’s arrival would alter the game in North America.

“In 2019, I organised a meeting with [Messi’s father and agent] Jorge Messi,” he said. [Inter Miami co-owner] David Beckham and I explained the Miami project to Jorge for three hours. I told him: ‘Your son will have the opportunity to create a new legacy because he will be able to change a sport in a country,’ and that [opportunity] is very rarely given to an athlete.”

Messi has missed Inter Miami’s past three games with a leg injury.