Lionel Messi has confirmed to the world that his next footballing adventure will come across the Atlantic Ocean with Inter Miami.
The MLS club’s co-owner and president David Beckham has had his heart set on luring Messi to Florida since the club’s inception five years ago and, after beating teams in Saudi Arabia and Barcelona to the icon’s signature, he finally has his man.
But Messi is just the latest superstar from the European stage to make the switch over to the United States. Here are some of the most prominent ones who came before him.
Former Manchester United star Beckham was the modern trailblazer for European stars to move across to the United States to play football. His 2007 move from Real Madrid to LA Galaxy shocked the footballing world but it certainly helped put MLS on the map. Heading to Los Angeles in his early 30s, Beckham had a fruitful career in California with 20 goals in 124 appearances. ‘Golden Balls’ also clinched two MLS Cups and two Supporters’ Shields during his time Stateside.
After a decorated career both domestically and internationally, David Villa was announced as the first player to join the newly-formed New York City in 2014 from Atletico Madrid. As you can imagine, his abilities in front of goal dazzled the American crowds as he scored 80 goals in four years with the club. He left as their all-time top scorer and bagged a number of individual achievements including the MLS MVP award in 2016.
Italian midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo joined Villa at New York City a year later after he left Juventus in 2015. The World Cup and Champions League winner brought his flair to MLS for two years, going on to make 60 appearances for New York City. It was another high-profile arrival that got the blue team of New York’s transfer business off to a stunning start.
Another seasoned midfielder who joined fellow superstars at New York City was Frank Lampard. He too joined in 2015 after calling time on his Chelsea career. As one of the most prolific goalscoring midfielders of his generation, the news of Lampard’s arrival got fans excited. They had to wait however, and weren’t particularly pleased with having to wait to see him play as he turned out for NYC’s sister club Manchester City first. He ended up playing more times in his loan spell for Man City than he did for New York City.
Following his exit from Manchester United in 2018, Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed up for some MLS action with LA Galaxy. The Swedish striker scored a stunning long-range strike to open his account for the club and he boasted one of the most prolific goalscoring records in MLS history with 52 goals in 56 games. Undoubtedly, he is one of the greatest players to have competed in America and supporters got their money’s worth each time he played.
One of the more well known stars who lit up MLS was former Arsenal forward Thierry Henry. The Frenchman swapped Barcelona for New York Red Bulls in 2010 and spent four years there. His outstanding talent regularly got fans off their seats as he scored 51 goals and picked up the Supporters’ Shield in 2013.
Given how much Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were always compared with each other throughout their careers, many found it funny that both signed up for MLS in the same year. As Lampard headed to the east coast, Gerrard moved to LA Galaxy, where he spent the final 18 months of his playing career. He left Los Angeles having scored five goals and provided 12 assists in 30 appearances.
World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger escaped from his sorry Manchester United spell in 2017 and relocated to Chicago Fire. The midfielder spent the final two years of his playing career there and brought his vast Bundesliga title-winning experience to help get his team into the play-offs for the first time in five years.
Before he was DC United manager, Wayne Rooney was there as a player just a few years earlier. He joined them from Everton in 2018 and it was a move that was a roaring success, with 39 goal involvements in 52 appearances.
One of his best moments for DC went viral and people were saying the Manchester United legend was rolling back the years in the US capital. After tracking back to win the ball and stop a counter-attack, Rooney sent an incredible cross to a teammate at the back post to head home.
Irish striker Robbie Keane joined LA Galaxy in 2011 from Tottenham Hotspur. He is revered across MLS and not just Los Angeles for what he did in the American game. With 104 goals across six seasons and three MLS Cups, his legacy speaks for itself. The 2014 MLS Cup he won was arguably the most special because it was his goal that secured LA Galaxy the title.