Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi was not going to be convinced by salary alone. Inter Miami co-owners Jorge and Jose Mas and MLS Commissioner Don Garber recognized this and made a decisive choice.

According to reports, the former Barcelona captain was offered $400 million a year by Saudi giants Al-Hilal, and the Mas brothers had no intention of competing in a bidding war for his services. However, Major League Soccer had a trump card in the shape of the biggest corporation in the world, Apple.

The potential boost in interest in the MLS Season Pass service on Apple TV was enough to include Messi in the arrangement. The deal with Miami is worth $50 million to $60 million a year and extends until 2025. He also receives an ownership part in the organization.

Messi Apple relationship already established

MLS commissioner Don Garber told Sports Business Journal that Lionel Messi‘s bonus pay would be tied to the increase in foreign MLS Season Pass subscribers. There is little information available as yet. However, Messi’s cut from the Apple arrangement will not affect the club’s part of the money.   

According to Jorge Mas, talks were moved along more quickly because Apple’s senior vice president of services, Eddy Cue, already had a relationship with Messi. It’s all thanks to the company’s deal to distribute a documentary detailing Argentina’s 2023 World Cup.

“The commissioner and I and my brother wanted to make sure that the package that we were able to put together for Lionel, the options that we were presenting to the Messi family, were going to encompass more than just a salary as a player. When we approached Eddy on this idea, he was amazing. He activated his team. He pushed hard”, Mas revealed.

Argentine expected to bring more sales to Apple

In North American sports, it is unprecedented for a media partner to take such an active role in recruitment. Nevertheless, Apple’s goals extend well beyond growing its streaming user base. According to Sports Journal, Apple is placing its bet on Messi and his home fans. This is in the hopes that this would lead to increased sales and brand awareness for Apple in Latin America.

According to the latest estimate by Counterpoint Research, Apple has just a 7% market share in Latin America. This ranks fourth after Samsung, Motorola, and the Chinese company Xiaomi. As a comparison, it has just 21% market share worldwide and 53% in the United States.

“You sit down with a company like Apple, you understand the reach. It takes an athlete like Messi to truly maximize that reach. When an athlete like Messi and a company like Apple come together, the possibilities are really endless”, Colorado Rapids vice president Josh Kroenke states.

Photo credit: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire