Lionel Messi, the captain of Argentina, has been honored as Time magazine’s Athlete of the Year for 2023. This honor comes after Messi won the Ballon d’Or for an unprecedented eighth time and raised the prominence of the sport in the United States with his transfer to Inter Miami.
In the final match of the World Cup, which took place in December of last year, Argentina defeated the reigning champions, France, and won their first World Cup trophy in 36 years. Messi was a significant contributor to Argentina’s victory.
When he left Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year, the 36-year-old player had a plethora of options to choose from. However, he ultimately joined Inter Miami of Major League Soccer. This decision was made even though he was being connected with his previous team, Barcelona, and a high-paying transfer to Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia.
“The truth is that fortunately, I had several options on the table that were interesting, and I had to analyse them and think, even weigh them up with my family, before making the final decision to come to Miami,” Messi told the publication.
When Messi arrived in Miami, he immediately scored ten goals in seven League Cup matches. He was the driving force behind Miami’s success in the competition, including from the M League Soccer (MLS) and teams from Mexico.
His entry into the country significantly increased requests for match times and tickets to see the Argentine play, and fans even bought his official pink Inter Miami shirt. The Argentine’s arrival in the United States also caused waves off the pitch.
According to research company Antenna, the cost of tickets to Inter Miami games increased. At the same time, Apple TV, which has a 10-year deal with Major League Soccer (MLS), witnessed a significant increase in subscriptions.
“Messi managed to do what once seemed impossible: turn the U.S. into a soccer country,” reported Time magazine.
Simone Biles, LeBron James, and the United States women’s soccer team have all won awards in recent years. In 2022, Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees was the recipient of the honor.