David Beckham Says He Could Never See Himself as Soccer Legend Lionel Messi’s Boss – Even Though He Owns His Team

The U.K. football star tells “Smartless” about his tenure as the owner of Inter Miami CF

Lionel Messi reacts on stage as he receives his 8th Ballon d'Or award next to former English football player and Inter Miami's co-owner David Beckham
Lionel Messi receives his eighth Ballon d'Or award with Inter Miami's co-owner David Beckham (Credit: FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

David Beckham might be a boss — but he’s a cool boss.

On this week’s “Smartless” podcast, the world-famous footballer opened up about his later-career successes as co-owner of Major League Soccer team Inter Miami CF, and specifically his unprecedented signing of Argentinian legend Lionel Messi in July 2023.

When podcast cohost Will Arnett — a clear fan — joked, “How crazy is it that you’re Messi’s boss?,” the former Manchester United midfielder quickly interjected with a laugh.

“I can’t look at it like that, I can’t! I just can’t.”

Reflecting on his tenure with Miami and Messi’s 2.5-year, $20.4 million per year contract with the team, Beckham described it as “one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.”

“We had to jump over a lot of hurdles along the way. There were so many difficult moments. People turning around and saying, ‘Miami is a really difficult sporting city, don’t go there, don’t take the team there.’ But I had a feeling that that was where I wanted to take the team,” he said. “And it took a long time to get it up and running, and we’re still jumping through different challenges, but in all honesty, my vision from Day 1 when I presented the team and tried to put the logo together and the colors and all of that, the last slide of the presentation that I presented to the creative guys was a picture of Messi in the Miami jersey. So my dream was always to bring someone — and him — to our team.”

Arnett agreed that “it’s pretty wild” to not have just found against-all-odds success in Miami but to have lured Messi to the team “in a time when, as you are well aware, a lot of players are going to get those big riches in the Middle East.”

“A lot of players from Europe, a lot of players from the U.K., they’re all going there and getting these huge paydays — famously Renaldo and everybody else,” Arnett said. “And Messi comes to Miami. That must have felt like a real vindication for you, like, a real sort of vote of confidence that he said, ‘You know what? I’m going to go to Miami and I’m going to partner with David Beckham and I’m going to play for Miami.’ I mean, that must have felt good.”

“It felt unbelievable,” Beckham said. “And I still can’t believe it. Every time someone turns around to me and says, ‘You have Messi on your team, you realize that, don’t you?,’ it really is surreal to say that we have probably the greatest player to have ever played the game, the most successful player to have ever played the game, and he’s playing in Miami in the MLS.”

Beckham then shared more about his years-long courting process for Messi.

“But Leo, his vision was always — he turned around to me many years ago, he said, ‘I love Miami, one day I want to live in Miami,’ and it stuck in my head. And I thought, ‘I’m going to make that happen one day.’

“We started the process four or five years before he came, I sneaked into his dad’s hotel, I said, ‘I want to sign your son, I know he won’t come now, but at some point we want to bring him to Miami,’” Beckham continued. “So we started the process five years out, and then all of a sudden, he decides to come, and yeah, I actually cannot believe. But you’re right, a lot of players were wanting to go into Saudi at the time, and he had a lot of offers, obviously, on the table. But he’s very clever. You know, he’s very clever. He knows what a massive market the U.S. market is, the opportunities that you can have. I think he also saw the life that me, the kids and my wife had in L.A. and, you know, that was his decision.”

Listen to Beckham’s full “Smartless” interview here.


2 responses to “David Beckham Says He Could Never See Himself as Soccer Legend Lionel Messi’s Boss – Even Though He Owns His Team”

  1. tom finn Avatar
    tom finn

    “David Beckham’s humility shines through as he gracefully acknowledges the sheer brilliance of Lionel Messi. Even as the owner of Inter Miami CF, Beckham sees Messi not as an employee but as a peer in the world of soccer greatness. A true testament to sportsmanship and respect in the beautiful game.”

  2. tom finn Avatar
    tom finn

    “David Beckham gracefully accepts Lionel Messi’s absolute genius, demonstrating his humility. Even though he owns Inter Miami CF, Beckham views Messi as a colleague in the elite league of soccer rather than as an employee. A fantastic example of respect and sportsmanship in the beautiful game.”

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