Lionel Messi, Football Star Nonpareil, Named Time Magazine's Athlete Of The Year 2023; In Elite Company Of Simone Biles, LeBron James, Michael Phelps

Argentina forward Lionel Messi scored 11 goals in 14 games for Inter Miami since July 2023 and led them to their first-ever Leagues Cup triumph. The publication has earlier honoured decorated athletes from other disciplines like gymnastics, tennis and swimming

Lionel Messi in action for Inter Miami during an MLS game.

Football superstar Lionel Messi has been named as Time Magazine's 2023 Athlete Of The Year. The 36-year-old won his record-extending eighth Ballon d'Or Award in October, and scored 11 goals in 14 games across competitions for Inter Miami - after joining them in July - to help the Major League Soccer (MLS) club lift the Leagues Cup trophy for the first time. (Football News)

Before that, Messi, who is hailed by a vast portion of the football-loving fraternity as arguably the 'Greatest of All Time' in the sport, had led Argentina to FIFA World Cup 2022 glory last December.   

"Lionel Messi this year managed to do what once seemed impossible, when he signed with Inter Miami: turning the US into a soccer country," Time magazine wrote. It added that Messi's arrival in the United States had precipitated a surge in ticket prices, attendances, merchandise sales and viewership of MLS games.

The Argentine forward joins decorated athletes like all-time great gymnast Simone Biles, serial Olympic medallist swimmer Michael Phelps and basketball titan LeBron James in winning the award.

After leaving French heavyweight club Paris Saint-Germain following the end of his contract, Messi said he would have preferred a return to his early-days club Barcelona, but the move did not materialise. It then boiled down to a move to the Saudi Pro League, which has invested considerably in foreign talent over the last two seasons, or Miami.

"My first option was to return to Barcelona, but it was not possible," Messi told Time. "I tried to return, and it did not happen.

"It is also true that later I was thinking a lot about going to the Saudi league, where I know the country and they have created a very powerful competition that can become an important league in the near future. It was Saudi Arabia or MLS, and both options seemed very interesting to me," he added.

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