Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi named Time magazine's 'Athlete of the Year'

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Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi named Time magazine's 'Athlete of the Year'
Lionel Messi paraded the Ballon D'or on his return to Inter Miami earlier this year
Lionel Messi paraded the Ballon D'or on his return to Inter Miami earlier this year
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Lionel Messi (36) 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 ground-breaking move to Major League Soccer's 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 US into a soccer country," Time commented.

Messi made his debut for Miami in July following an acrimonious departure from Paris Saint-Germain.

The World Cup winner also rebuffed a lucrative move to Saudi Arabia in favour 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 towards the end of the season meant he was unable to help Miami force their way into the playoffs.

Messi was quoted by Time as saying that his first preference after PSG had been a fairytale return to Barcelona, but that move stalled over the club's finances.

"I tried to return, and it did not happen," Messi said, adding that he was also "thinking a lot" about joining the wave of overseas players who have headed to the Saudi Pro League.

"It was Saudi Arabia or MLS, and both options seemed very interesting to me," Messi told the magazine.

Time said Messi's arrival had driven a surge in attendances, ticket prices, merchandise sales and viewership, revealing that on the day of his debut, subscriptions to Apple TV - which retains exclusive rights to MLS - had jumped by 110,000, a 1,700% increase over the previous day.

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