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Fans face wait for Messi in Miami shirt

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Lionel Messi is unlikely to make his debut for Inter Miami before late July and fans will have to wait some time even for the formal presentation of the player.

Messi announced on Wednesday that he had made his mind up over his next destination after letting his contract with Paris Saint Germain expire.

His words that “I’ve taken the decision that I am going to Miami” set off a wave of excitement among fans in the United States.

But Messi followed up that bombshell by stating “I don’t have (the deal) 100 per cent sealed” and that caveat, along with existing commitments to the Argentine national team, is why his fans in the States will have to be patient.

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While ticket prices for upcoming games that could involve Messi are already rocketing and the player’s global fan base flocks to the social media accounts of Inter Miami, plenty of work remains to be done on the deal, a person familiar with the negotiations told AFP.

First, Messi has to sign a contract to join MLS and that could be a time-consuming process, given the unique structure and regulations of the North American league.

MLS operates a collective bargaining agreement with its players union, covering salaries and salary caps and there are also a whole host of issues in his contract that will need the attention of lawyers on both sides.

Messi’s deal is also understood to contain a revenue-sharing element with Apple TV, who broadcast MLS games globally through their MLS Season Pass – adding another layer of complexity to the process.

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Beyond an initial social media post, Inter Miami have not produced any statement regarding the deal and the club have not responded to requests for comment, indicating a desire to get the deal signed and sealed before popping the champagne corks.

The only comment from MLS has been a carefully worded statement after Messi’s interview with Spanish media.

“We are pleased that Lionel Messi has stated that he intends to join Inter Miami and Major League Soccer this summer. Although work remains to finalize a formal agreement, we look forward to welcoming one of the greatest soccer players of all time to our League,” said the league.

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It would take some intense work to get formalities completed before early next week and only then would the deal be officially announced.

Getting Messi to Miami quickly for a formal presentation to fans and media could be tricky though given that he is due to travel to Asia next week with Argentina for two friendlies.

The World Cup winners face Australia in Beijing on 15 June before facing Indonesia in Jakarta four days later.

The most likely scenario, barring a very rapid conclusion to negotiations, would be that Messi travels to Miami after those games.

As for when Messi actually takes to the field in the pink shirt of Inter Miami? The most probable date is understood to be the 21 July game with Mexican club Cruz Azul.

Messi has just completed a full season in the French league and would normally be in off-season mode and will need some time for rest and recovery – as well as sorting out his family’s move to South Florida.

The Cruz Azul game is one of the opening games of the newly expanded Leagues Cup tournament featuring all 47 teams from MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX and the two leagues couldn’t ask for a better launch than the debut of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner.

Four days later Miami face Atlanta in the same competition and the schedule for the following weeks depends on their progress in the tournament.

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The club return to MLS action when they host Charlotte on 20 August before travelling to Cincinnati for the semifinal of the US Open Cup.

Their first road trip with Messi would be at the New York Red Bulls on 26 August while they visit champions Los Angeles FC on 3 September.

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