Fans are paying almost £1000 to watch Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami debut, but football will never truly conquer America

LIONEL MESSI makes his debut for Inter Miami on Friday and some people are paying more than $1,200 (£933) for a ticket.

If curious Americans really want to know what all the fuss is about, they could just hang about at the mall to see the little fella doing his grocery shopping . . . and it won’t cost them a dime.

Lionel Messi joined Inter Miami, but ‘soccer’ will never conquer the USReuters

Messi was recently pictured in a Florida supermarket with a trolley loaded with breakfast cereal — and hardly anyone recognised him.

The greatest player of all time is getting $60million (£47m) a year to swap football for ‘soccer’ after rejecting an even more lucrative offer to join Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia.

And the fact he has chosen the MLS over MBS is proving to be a great source of pride for our Trans­atlantic chums.

Ronaldo, obviously, claims that the Saudi League is already bigger than soccer in the States and they’re certainly paying a hell of a lot more for their washed-up stars.

The big problem facing the game in the land of the free transfer is that it will always be chasing American football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey and Nascar in the battle for ratings.

Nine Premier League teams are currently out here preparing for the new season, kicking off with Arsenal’s 5-0 win against Wayne Rooney’s MLS All-Stars.

On Tuesday evening, Mikel Arteta’s bemused players participated in the ‘All-Stars skills challenge’ which involved rival keepers belting the ball at each other from ten yards away and various shooting, passing and control competitions.

It was a bit like It’s A Knockout but without the risk of running into Prince Andrew.

And as dreadful as that sounds,  and was, they still managed to attract a remarkably enthusiastic sell-out crowd.

It summed up the precarious existence football leads in America, where the game is desperate to be taken seriously but still needs to divert its paying public with constant gimmicks.

So the MLS has now been paused mid-season to accommodate a tournament against teams from the Mexican League, starting with Messi’s debut against Cruz Azul on Friday.

And League commissioner Don Garber has again rejected the idea of  promotion and relegation because the ‘franchise’ owners are not prepared to take the risk of demotion.


Fans will have to pay almost £1,000 to watch Messi’s debut for Inter MiamiGetty

Just like Freddie Mercury, the American sporting public has no time for losers.

That’s why the Women’s World Cup is generating far more interest than the men’s game. Because the USA actually has a chance of winning it.

Yet there is no doubt that the game is starting to establish a toehold.

The MLS has just signed a $250m (£194m) contract with Apple TV and a $380m (£295m) kit deal with adidas.

The recent LAFC v LA Galaxy derby attracted a record 82,000 crowd and in three years’ time the US will host the World Cup with Mexico and Canada.

So the interest is clearly there. But holding America’s attention is like  trying to herd cats — because there’s always something bigger, brasher and shinier just around the corner.

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