Does the NFL Need a Lionel Messi?

Steve O Speak

It has only been just over two months since it was announced that Lionel Messi would be joining Inter Miami in MLS. In that short space of time he has generated millions in merchandise sales for the organization – and MLS – and provided his new team with its first-ever trophy in the shape of the Leagues Cup. The world’s greatest player has certainly landed with a bang.


Although MLS is not regarded as one of the better leagues in the soccer world, there is the hope in this country that Messi’s arrival will propel it into the upper echelons. If brand awareness counts for anything, the Argentinian players’ move has already been a huge success.


Money has poured into the MLS betting sites and Messi, a global superstar, has elevated soccer even higher in the US and beyond. But does the NFL need a player like Messi? With the new football season just underway, there are plenty of big names – but no one with the same global recognition. Now that Messi is in the US, does the NFL need to step up its game to stay number one?


Player Power


It is clear that the NFL just doesn’t have anyone in the same category as Lionel Messi. But it is the business side of the Messi move to Inter Miami that probably interests the NFL’s players the most. Not only is he earning a huge basic salary, but he is also collecting money from broadcasting deals and the league’s commercial partners.


Like David Beckham before him, Messi is also likely to be offered part-ownership in an MLS franchise when he finally hangs up his boots too. Pro football players are hardly struggling to get by, but not even the best-paid players in the league are getting a cut from TV deals.


Team Game


Obviously, we know that soccer is a team game as well. But a major reason why the NFL probably doesn’t need – or will even get – a Messi-like player – is that there is just so much personnel on an average NFL roster. The quarterback is the closest to what Messi provides, but there are lots of different star players all over the field.


Joe Burrow may have signed a multi-million dollar deal with the Bengals but if he were to experience a poor season, there would be other players on the team that would step up. NFL teams can adapt without their star players if they get injured (as the Jets will need to quickly learn). But Inter Miami is in real trouble if Messi gets injured.


Soccer stars play as part of a team but Lionel Messi’s role in Miami is much different than anything that has gone before – and especially compared to the NFL.


Any Given Sunday


One major reason why there is no real need for a Lionel Messi in the NFL is that it is already assured of its place in the culture of this country. On any given Sunday, as the famous saying goes, millions of people will be watching the game – and then probably another – with friends and family.


Baseball may be considered a true American pastime, but football is the favorite sport. Some states may prefer the college version of the game, but football is the glue that keeps this country together. MLS needs Messi to become bigger – the NFL is already the biggest show in town.


Messi Influence


Even though the NFL’s place in the structure of our society may not be under threat, it already seems as though Lionel Messi is having an influence outside of soccer. Inter Miami jerseys have become far more common even away from South Florida and MLS is enjoying a higher profile.


NFL players have even shown their love for the soccer player. DeAndre Hopkins, recently acquired by the Tennessee Titans, has confirmed that he will wear the number 10 jersey this season in honor of Messi. Messi is apparently a huge inspiration and hero to Hopkins and this is a way he can show that.



Big Four Becoming Big Five


With the NFL’s position secure even without players of the same level around the world, there is now an addition to the traditional big four sports. Not all of football, basketball, hockey, and baseball are purely American sports but North America has always been regarded as the place where they are played best.


With Messi bringing soccer into the equation, it could be argued that we should be talking about the big five. Once again though, this is another reason why the NFL doesn’t need a Messi. Football is already part of the big four – or five. It doesn’t need a greatest of all time superstar player to elevate the sport or the brand.


Football is Safe


If we are coming across as defensive about the sport we love more than any other, then that was not our intention. There have been conversations about how Lionel Messi is transforming soccer in the US and we wanted to show that the NFL doesn’t need the same kind of help.


Players like Burrows, Mahomes, and even Rodgers, will fuel debate, dominate fantasy sports teams and betting, and keep football the number one sport in the US. The NFL is strong enough to not bend the way it works for the sake of one player, so we are not likely to see a seismic shift any time soon.


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