Lionel Messi named Time’s ‘Athlete of the Year’ for 2023

Inter Miami team co-owner and former football star David Beckham smiles as Lionel Messi (L) receives the Ballon d’Or trophy during the Golden Ball award ceremony in Paris, France, October 30, 2023. /CFP

Inter Miami team co-owner and former football star David Beckham smiles as Lionel Messi (L) receives the Ballon d’Or trophy during the Golden Ball award ceremony in Paris, France, October 30, 2023. /CFP

Lionel Messi has been named Time magazine’s “Athlete of the Year” for 2023 after a trailblazing season marked by an eighth Ballon d’Or award and his groundbreaking move to Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Inter Miami.

Time said the Argentine superstar had already had a transformative impact on the American sporting landscape, which has been historically slow to embrace football.

“Lionel Messi this year managed to do what once seemed impossible, when he signed with Inter Miami: turning the U.S. into a soccer country,” Time said.

Time's tweet on December 5 about Lionel Messi. /@TIME

Time’s tweet on December 5 about Lionel Messi. /@TIME

Time’s tweet on December 5 about Lionel Messi. /@TIME

The 36-year-old Messi debuted for Miami in July following his departure from Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).

The World Cup winner also rebuffed a lucrative move to Saudi Arabia in favor of a new chapter in MLS.

The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner made an instant impact on Miami’s fortunes, playing a pivotal role in helping the team win the expanded Leagues Cup, a cross-border competition for teams from MLS and Mexico’s top flight.

Messi finished the campaign with 11 goals in 14 appearances across all competitions, but an injury toward the end of the season meant he was unable to help Miami force their way into the playoffs.

“At 36, two decades into his unparalleled career, Messi provided a singular stimulus to soccer in America. Attendance, ticket prices, merchandise sales and viewership soared. His games took on the feel of a religious revival,” Time reported.

“The most important thing right now is to recover well physically and also mentally, rest, spend time with my family, with my friends and then think about returning with the same desire as always and with some special challenges ahead,” Messi said in an interview with Time.

Lionel Messi (#10) and teammates of Inter Miami celebrate after defeating the Nashville SC to win the Leagues Cup final in Nashville, U.S., August 19, 2023. /CFP

Lionel Messi (#10) and teammates of Inter Miami celebrate after defeating the Nashville SC to win the Leagues Cup final in Nashville, U.S., August 19, 2023. /CFP

Lionel Messi (#10) and teammates of Inter Miami celebrate after defeating the Nashville SC to win the Leagues Cup final in Nashville, U.S., August 19, 2023. /CFP

Messi’s 11 goals in 14 appearances for Inter Miami in 2023

Ten goals and one assist in seven Leagues Cup matches

One goal and two assists in six MLS matches

Two assists in one U.S. Open Cup match

(With input from AFP)

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