At an awards ceremony in London, Lionel Messi has been named by FIFA as The Best Men’s Player of the Year for the third time since the award’s inception in 2016. Having left Paris Saint-Germain to sign for David Beckham’s Inter Miami CF in the summer, the Argentinian becomes the first player outside of Europe to lift the award.
The award takes into account performances from December 19th, 2022 through to August 20th, 2023 – meaning his FIFA World Cup triumph with la Albiceleste was not taken into consideration for this edition of the award.
Lionel Messi is synonymous with silverware, but having left the bustling trophy cabinets of Barcelona behind to sign for Paris Saint-Germain in 2021, the Argentine forward sought to add to his tally in the French capital.
He did just that. In the two seasons Messi spent in France, les Parisiens won Ligue 1 twice, while also reaching the round-of-sixteen of the UEFA Champions League in both campaigns. His individual performances led to a number of personal accolades too, including the eighth Ballon d’Or of his career and his second FIFA The Best Men’s Player award – though that is thought to largely be a result of Argentina’s success on the global stage.Embed from Getty Images
But despite continuing his prolific form in Paris, Messi revealed that he wanted ‘to get a little out of the spotlight [and] think more about [his] family,’ which he would achieve by sealing a monumental move to Miami.
Made in Miami
As expected, Messi’s move to Miami made global headlines – with one of the world’s greatest stars heading to a league that had previously been viewed as inferior to those in Europe. The Argentine signed one of the most lucrative contracts in footballing history, with both Inter Miami and the MLS aware of the commercial benefits of the deal.
In the most poetic fashion, Messi netted the winning goal on his debut for the club as his stoppage-time free-kick was enough to see off Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup. He would play a crucial role in the final too, bagging his tenth goal in seven games to open the scoring against Nashville SC – and though they restored parity in the second half, Messi scored the opening penalty of the shootout as Inter Miami went on to claim their first trophy.Embed from Getty Images
The resumption of the 2023 MLS season also saw Messi find the back of the net on his league debut, but the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner was unable to set the league alight – ultimately netting 11 goals in 14 games, including his aforementioned Leagues Cup tally.
Inter Miami ultimately finished 14th in the Eastern Conference, having failed to record a win in their final seven games of the season.
At 36 years old, this may well be Messi’s last major individual accolade unless Argentina triumph in the 2024 Copa América, which is set to commence on June 20th, 2024 in the United States.