Lionel Messi has emerged Time Magazine’s Athlete of the Year for 2023.
The crowning comes after his move to the United States to join Major League Soccer side Inter Miami.
Messi joins the likes of Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, LeBron James and the Untied States women’s national team to win the award. New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge won the award in 2022.
He made his debut for the Florida-based franchise in July, and announced his arrival by scoring a free kick in the final minutes to give his side a 2-1 victory. Since then he’s had a profound impact on the MLS.
With their star signing on board, Inter Miami won the Leagues Cup, their first major trophy, beating Nashville in the final in which Messi scored. The Argentina international scored 11 goals in 14 games in all competitions to finish the season. He was also nominated for the MLS MVP award.
In October, he claimed a record extending eighth Ballon d’or crown after he guided Argentina to World Cup victory in Qatar in 2022.
The 36-year-old explored the potential of a return to Barcelona and turned down a move to the Saudi Pro League before he signed with Inter Miami in a deal reported to be worth $20 million a year, and what’s reported to be an ownership stake in the club when he retires.
Lionel Messi claimed a record extending eighth Ballon d’or in October. Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Former L.A Galaxy star and Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham said he feared the franchise wouldn’t land their marquee player.
“The one that really worried me was Barcelona,” Beckham told Time.
“He never got to say goodbye to the fans, or say goodbye to the club. I explained to him, as a family, the six years we had in L.A. were the best six years that we had.
“People welcomed us with open arms, not just in L.A., but the whole of America.”