Lionel Messi is out of his contract with FC Barcelona this summer. Could the international soccer superstar come to the United States to play for a Major League Soccer club next? After all, Messi recently expressed interest in coming stateside.
San Jose Earthquakes coach Matias Almeyda thinks MLS is a perfect next step for the 33-year-old six-time Ballon d’Or winner. With an MLS team, Messi and his family can get some relative privacy.
“Do you know why I think it’s a good idea? Because the U.S. is a big country,” Almeyda said in an interview with 90min. “It has 350 million inhabitants, I think. The stars here can walk in peace in the street. Each person who wants a life can enjoy what he likes [and] will live a different life.”
Almeyda, like Messi, was born in Argentina and represented the country in two World Cups in 1998 and 2002. He played six years in Argentina for River Plate with European stops at Sevilla, Lazio, Parma and Inter Milan. After retirement, Almeyda went into coaching and eventually came to San Jose as the Quakes head coach in 2018, and led the team to the playoffs in 2020.
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He’s seen first-hand the benefits a star player can have away from Europe. Almedya says Messi will be able to walk in public with his family without a fan and media mob following them. He can lead a more normal life outside of fame’s harshest spotlight.
“I think that all the players who want to live a normal life,” Almeyda said. “That don’t want to get ahead of the line in the supermarket because they are famous, or don’t want to go to the bank and get ahead of the line.
“In that way, you turn to be a normal human again. All the players that want to be normal pick this place.”
Almeyda seems to be enjoying his time at the Quakes’ helm; he recently declined an offer to coach Cruz Azul in Mexico City and will start his third season in San Jose in 2021. He is under contract until 2022 with the Quakes trending upwards.
Despite a tumultuous season, he led the Quakes to the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs after clinching the final Western Conference spot. If Messi decides MLS is his next step — David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Thierry Henry all did it — then why not the Quakes? Almeyda, who suggested with a chuckle that Messi join San Jose specifically, is confident the competition level would challenge the prolific player.
“The league is competitive, it’s not easy,” Almeyda said in the interview. “There are Mexican players I brought here and they thought it would be easy, but adapting was difficult. It took a while, a year more or less. Maybe it’s underrated, but the league is growing, and the players are picking it because of that reason.”
As of the new year, Messi can begin negotiations for next season with any club outside of Spain. Among MLS destinations, he’s been most heavily linked to Inter Miami, possibly to play Argentina international teammate Gonzalo Higuaín. Perhaps Almeyda can convince him a fellow Argentine is more valuable on the sideline than on the field.
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