Lionel Messi, the Argentine captain, has been honored as Time magazine's Athlete of the Year for 2023. This recognition comes on the heels of Messi securing an unprecedented eighth Ballon d'Or and achieving a historic milestone by leading Argentina to their first World Cup title in 36 years, triumphing over defending champions France in the final last December. Messi's impact extended beyond the field, notably with his move to Major League Soccer's Inter Miami, where he made an instant impact, scoring 10 goals in seven Leagues Cup appearances, propelling the team to victory.
Despite numerous tempting offers after departing Paris St Germain, Messi opted to join Inter Miami, a decision he discussed, stating, "Fortunately, I had several options on the table that were interesting, and I had to analyze them and think, even weigh them up with my family, before making the final decision to come to Miami."
His arrival in the US marked a turning point for soccer, causing a surge in interest with heightened searches for match dates and tickets. Fans clamored for a glimpse of Messi in action, reflected in the soaring prices of Inter Miami game tickets and an increased subscription rate for Apple TV, which holds a decade-long partnership with MLS, according to research firm Antenna.
Messi's impact went beyond individual achievements, as Time magazine noted, "Messi managed to do what once seemed impossible: turning the US into a soccer country." This accolade follows recent recipients such as Simone Biles, LeBron James, and the United States women's soccer team, with Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees securing the honor in 2022. Lionel Messi's influence on and off the pitch continues to shape the global perception and popularity of soccer, leaving an indelible mark on the sport.