Lionel Messi's huge popularity is driving a surge in interest in his future club Inter Miami and Major League Soccer
Lionel Messi's huge popularity is driving a surge in interest in his future club Inter Miami and Major League Soccer AFP News

Seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is not even officially an Inter Miami player yet, but tickets for the club's upcoming matches are reportedly going on sale for as high as £16,000. The price surge is a direct result of the hype following the confirmation of the Argentine's transfer from Paris Saint-Germain FC.

The 35-year-old forward made it clear earlier this year that he won't be extending his stay in Paris. As a result, speculations swirled around his future for several months before he finally confirmed last week that he has decided to head to the United States to join David Beckham's Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise, Inter Miami.

Messi's current deal with PSG expires on June 30, after which he is expected to officially become an Inter Miami player. He won't be making his debut for a few more weeks after that, with his first appearance expected to take place on July 21 when Inter Miami face Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup.

Ticket prices have gone through the roof

The Miami Herald has reported that tickets for Messi's debut appearance are being sold over StubHub for as high as £16,000. That constitutes an increase of over 1,000 per cent from average MLS ticket prices.

Messi mania has clearly swept the United States by storm, with Inter Miami's away matches also selling at similarly much higher rates. Not only that, they are selling out at breakneck speed. Within just three hours, Charlotte FC sold out 10,000 tickets for a match where they will be hosting the Miami based club.

Meanwhile, Atlanta United is also set to profit handsomely in their upcoming home game against Inter Miami. They have the ability to sell as many as 71,000 tickets to fans who would want to catch the game live at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Inter Miami are the big winners even before the season has started

Inter Miami are currently sitting dead last in the Eastern Conference table in the MLS. Nevertheless, they are the big winners after acquiring the signature of the FIFA World Cup winning captain. With Messi's arrival, the club's commercial value has increased exponentially.

Apart from the ticket sales, which will also benefit the other clubs, there is also a massive increase in interest from corporate sponsors. There will be higher demand for television or streaming rights as Messi's fans from all over the world seek ways to follow his career outside of Europe.

Search queries for "Inter Miami tickets" have increased several thousand times over, and the club is reported to be in the process of expanding the seating capacity of its home stadium in order to accommodate the demand.

The Messi effect is evidently helping Inter Miami keep the cashflow going even though they have been performing rather poorly on the pitch. Things have been so bad in recent months that David Beckham has even been forced to sack his good friend, Phil Neville, from his position as manager.

Messi's former club, FC Barcelona, will be watching all that money going down the drain. It is no secret that they were hoping to re-sign their former captain this year, but the club's finances have made things complicated. In order to re-sign the star forward, they needed to go through several loopholes in order to stay within La Liga's Financial Fair Play regulations.

Barcelona would have benefitted immensely from the great comeback, with a potential farewell season likely to generate a lot of cash alongside merchandise sales and sponsorship agreements. All that is no longer possible after Messi decided not to push for a comeback, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, Messi also turned down what was rumoured to be a massively lucrative offer from Saudi Pro League side Al Hilal. The club could certainly afford whatever salary he demanded, but the Argentine chose to go for a more relaxed environment in the MLS. He did not gave a specific reason why he opted against playing in Saudi Arabia even though he is already a tourism ambassador for the country.

"I've taken the decision that I am going to Miami. [I decided] to leave Europe.It's true that I had offers from another European team but I didn't even think about it because in Europe, my idea was only to go to Barcelona.

"After winning the World Cup and not being able to go to Barca, it's time to go to MLS to live football in a different way and enjoy my day to day life more," he said.

Messi confirmed that he expects life to be "more calm" in the MLS, but he assures that he still has the same "desire to win." It remains to be seen if he will have a much better stint with Inter Miami compared to his largely underwhelming time with PSG.