In the future, when we thumb through The Messi Effect book to read about the summer of 2023, there’s no doubt that Lionel Messi’s incredible achievements will be center stage. His signing with Inter Miami and winning the Leagues Cup helped generate record ticket sales and shirts sold. On the pitch, his remarkable goals for Inter Miami will be cherished by all who saw them.

Unfortunately for Inter Miami fans, it comes at a price. The Messi Effect has become The Messi Fatigue, exacerbated by the club charging exorbitant prices.

It all came to a head last Friday night when Inter Miami played a friendly against New York City FC. Tickets to the game weren’t included in the season ticket package, so loyal fans had to open up their wallets once again. Prices for the game started at $90 and ran as high as several hundred dollars. Upset at the prices, it was clear that fans weren’t buying. Within 24 hours, Ticketmaster dropped the price of the cheapest ticket to a still-expensive $55.

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Inter Miami season ticket holders upset

Before the match began, Messi was brought out onto the pitch to celebrate his record eighth Ballon d’Or award.

“[The Noche d’Or] was a great presentation,” said Ed Serrano, co-host of the Futbol Miami TV. “Thank goodness the lights were off so people couldn’t see how empty [the stadium] was on national TV. We knew it was not going to be that full. The front office, as a courtesy, should have given tickets to the season ticket holders and sold the rest to everyone else.”

For a friendly against an MLS opponent the team had already played twice this season, there was little excitement — even though Messi was playing and he was celebrating his Ballon d’Or.

Other soccer fans were upset too.

“Inter Miami has gotten this whole experience wrong from the get-go. The presentation should be for Messi AND the fans, not just for Messi and [then charging] fans a lot,” wrote a fan.

“The prices are ridiculous,” said Julio Enriquez. “I can’t believe I’m paying four times more than what I paid last year.”

“I just emailed my [Inter Miami ticket] rep about how they’ve [shockingly] treated the fans [who] have been through the last few years of sh**. I’m not renewing. I doubt I’ll be back near the stadium which is sad seeing I live 1.5 miles from it,” according to another fan.

The Messi Effect has become the Messi Fatigue

It’s not just that one friendly that upset Inter Miami fans. This level of frustration has been boiling up for a few months, particularly after the season ticket price increases were announced.

For many fans, season tickets for next season have climbed more than 170%. In doing so, Inter Miami now has the most expensive season tickets for soccer anywhere on the planet.

“We’re going to need a lot of these people to come back,” added Serrano. “If Messi plays in the new stadium, that’ll be great. We’ll have at least half a season of him playing there, hopefully, if they don’t run behind schedule [to have the new stadium ready in 2025]. If not, it’ll be interesting to see if they can even fill that stadium because the way it’s going, they’re losing a lot of the loyal fans [who were there since the beginning] because of the team, not because of one player.

“Hopefully the front office is listening, and they’re not just thinking about the money.”

If Inter Miami keeps on fleecing its fans, the initial feel-good factor from The Messi Effect may have damaging consequences. Already, fans are starting to become irate. The recent Noche d’Or game showed that simply putting Messi on a field in a friendly to celebrate an award isn’t going to sell out a stadium. Especially when ticket prices are cost-prohibitive.

Is The Messi Effect over? We’ll know for sure in 2024.

Photo: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire.