Former Barcelona captain and football legend Lionel Messi was recently named as TIME magazine’s Athlete of the Year for 2023.
The 36-year-old legendary superstar has enjoyed a stunning past 12 months or so – from winning the World Cup with Argentina in December last year to bagging another Ballon d’Or – his eighth in total – less than a couple of months ago.
Adding to his personal success, Messi has now been named the Athlete of the Year by TIME magazine.
Barcelona was Messi’s first choice in the summer
Messi gave a detailed interview to TIME after being crowned the Athlete of the Year for 2023, during which he discussed his summer transfer to Inter Miami.
When his contract with PSG ran out at the end of the last season, the Argentine icon was heavily linked with a return to Barcelona, two years after he was forced out of the club due to economic circumstances.
All possible avenues were explored, but in the end, the stars could not align for a reunion, with the eight-time Ballon d’Or ending up signing for the MLS outfit instead.
Touching upon the same, Messi said in the interview that a return to Barcelona had always been his first option, while also confirming that he had lucrative offers from Saudi Arabia.
“The truth is that 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,” Messi told TIME.
“My first option was to return to Barcelona, but it was not possible. I tried to return, and it did not happen,” he confirmed.
“It was Saudi Arabia or MLS, and both options seemed very interesting to me,” the 2022 World Cup winner added, once a return to Barcelona was no longer on the table.
While a return to Barcelona as a player might not have materialised, the Catalans are understood to be working on a tribute match for their former captain, which will be held once the renovation of Spotify Camp Nou is completed.