TIME Magazine has named Argentine talisman Lionel Messi as its 2023 Athlete of the Year.
The New York-based news magazine made this known in a publication on Tuesday.
According to TIME, Messi marked his arrival in the U.S. by scoring 10 goals in seven Leagues Cup games while leading Inter Miami to the championship.
The magazine also recalled the 36-year-old’s first appearance, on Friday, July 21, against Cruz Azul at DRV PNK Stadium, when he netted in a last-minute free kick to secure a 2-1 win for his team.
Since Messi arrived US, attendance, ticket prices, merchandise sales, and viewership soared, adding that his games took on the feel of a religious revival.
These earned the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner and 2022 World Cup champion, another honorable distinction to add to his resume.
According to TIME, for some reasons that have been bandied around for decades, which included “lack of goal scoring, not as violent as football or fun as basketball, status as a foreign import”, the US had never fully embraced the beautiful game. It however said the sport has seen impressive growth, since Messi’s arrival.
With the most revered and influential athlete on the planet playing in Miami for at least the next two years, still performing at the top of his game—he won another Ballon d’Or as the world’s player of the year, his eighth, in late October—the U.S. is now a soccer nation. A fútbol nation.
The Inter Miami superstar joined David Beckham’s club on Saturday, July 15 , and his contract will run until 2025.