Argentine football legend Lionel Messi has been honored as Time's Athlete of the Year for 2023, securing a coveted spot on the magazine's cover.
The recognition comes in acknowledgment of Messi's profound influence on U.S. football since joining Inter Miami.
Messi's accolade reflects his ongoing success and impact beyond the field, particularly in elevating the profile of football in the United States.
The 36-year-old, a World Cup winner and celebrated FC Barcelona icon, shared insights with TIME regarding his decision to depart Barcelona and turn down an offer from Saudi Arabia.
In the interview, Messi revealed, "My first option was to return to Barcelona, but it was not possible. I tried to return, and it did not happen."
He went on to discuss the attractive options he had, including the possibility of joining the Saudi league, given his role as the country's tourism ambassador.
Ultimately, Messi opted for Major League Soccer (MLS) and joined Inter Miami, a decision he found equally intriguing.
Time's recognition of Messi as the Athlete of the Year highlights not only his sporting prowess but also his influence in shaping football narratives globally.
The accolade adds to Messi's extensive list of achievements and reinforces his status as one of the most iconic figures in the world of sports.
Additionally, David Beckham, co-owner of Inter Miami, shared his astonishment at Messi's debut performance for the club, particularly emphasizing Messi's remarkable free-kick against Cruz Azul.
Beckham remarked, "I remember getting in the car on the way back, and I said to Victoria, ‘I’m not even sure I can drive home.’ You couldn’t have written it better."
Messi's journey from a talented youngster in Argentina to becoming an international football icon has been marked by extraordinary achievements and milestones.
His impact on the sport, both on and off the field, continues to resonate globally, making him a fitting recipient of Time's prestigious Athlete of the Year award for 2023.