David Beckham and his start-up American team Inter Miami are thought to be planning a spectacular swoop for Lionel Messi for their debut season in Major League Soccer in 2020.
Beckham’s high-profile club have been linked with every big-name player on the planet but executives at several MLS clubs said last week they were convinced Inter will bid to make the biggest statement possible and land Messi.
His contract at Barcelona runs until the end of the 2020-21 season but the Argentine maestro will turn 33 the previous summer and both he and the team may be tempted if Inter Miami submit a huge bid.
A source close to Beckham’s club said that no contact has been made with Messi, or any other potential targets, but admitted that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner would be the obvious big-name signing if he could be tempted away.
Messi has said in the past that he would like to end his career at the Nou Camp and it is unlikely that he would consider a move to any other top-flight club in Europe when he decides to move on.
It had been thought that he might make a sentimental return to club football in Argentina but that prospect appears to have dimmed because of his problems playing for the national team.
And playing for Beckham in Miami, where there is a 70 per cent Latino population and where he would be allowed more freedom for him and his family, might appeal at the end of his career.
The speculation comes against the backdrop of a belief among club executives in the MLS that it is only a matter of time until an American club signs an elite European player who is in his prime.
Until now, the majority of foreign recruits to the booming US league have been players at the end of their careers but the feeling is that that could be about to change and that Inter Miami may well be the first club to push the boundaries.
The club has yet to settle on a home for its stadium and is awaiting the results of a referendum in November to approve its location.