The world’s best soccer player turned down a billion dollar deal in Saudi. Why?

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The world’s best soccer player’s decision to turn down a billion dollar deal in Saudi —as well as an emotional reunion with his boyhood team— wasn’t about sports at all.

Messi’s not playing football with his latest signing. He’s playing tech x media mogul.


As this newsletter has reported, the footballer Lionel Messi —considered by many to be the best soccer player of all time— spurned both FC Barcelona, and the Saudi club Al Hilal, to move to Inter Miami of America’s Major League Soccer.


Barcelona threw shade, issuing a statement that wished the 35-year-old player good luck in a league with “fewer demands, further away from the spotlight and the pressure he has been subject to in recent years.”

Despite its lesser soccer reputation, Messi chose America.



Well, yes, money, but this story is a bit more complicated than you might think. For starters, Al Hilal was offering Messi a lot more, like, over a billion dollars — which would have been the richest contract in the history of sports.

But this isn’t a sports story. It’s a tech and media one. Stay with me.


When it comes to the quality of the on field product, Major League Soccer is not at the same level as La Liga, the Spanish league that Barcelona and Real Madrid play in.

That doesn’t matter. Messi’s not playing football with this deal. He’s playing tech x media mogul.

See, Messi’s more or less being signed by Apple just as much as he’s being signed by Inter Miami.


Last year, Apple‘s streaming service paid US$2.5b for a decade’s worth of worldwide MLS streaming rights.

While the details of the deal are still being ironed out, apparently Apple made Messi’s move to Miami more attractive by offering him a share of their soccer-related Apple TV+ income.


Messi in MLS is great for Apple. One of the best players in the world is now on Apple TV+.

And Messi in MLS is great for Messi. The Wall Street Journal reported that he will receive a cut of every single new subscription to the MLS package on Apple TV+. On top of that, Messi is also set to be the subject of a new four-part documentary series, too.


This newsletter has written a lot about the end of mainstream popular culture. Look around: our news, entertainment, and music streams have all become increasingly personalized. Your Instagram “Explore” page and TikTok “For You” page have replaced the nightly television schedule. Your Netflix Home Screen has replaced the multiplex. And your Spotify “Daily Mix” has replaced the radio.

Live sports is literally the last thing that a critical mass of people all watch at the same time.

An old boss of mine had an expression for this phenomenon. He used to call the NFL “America’s last campfire,” as in, the last bit of programming that’s able to bring Americans to their living rooms at the same time to watch the same thing.

Here’s a fun fact: he is now Apple's vice president of Marketing Communications, reporting directly to the CEO.


Media has completely splintered. Live sports is the only type of content left that is continually able to attract mass audiences, making it the most valuable content there is.

Messi knows this.

Now you do, too.


Apple TV+ is the real winner in Messi’s move to Miami »» 

Messi to Miami: How MLS, Apple and Adidas rallied to bring a soccer icon to America »»

Written by Jon Kallus. Any feedback? Simply reply. Like this? Share it!

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