MIAMI, United States (AFP) — Lionel Messi has yet to put pen to paper on his impending deal with Inter Miami, but already massive interest in the Argentine's move is driving huge numbers in social media, ticket sales and more.
Inter Miami's followers on Instagram have quintupled since the former Barcelona great revealed on Wednesday that he would be heading to the Major League Soccer club.
On Wednesday morning, Inter's account had around 900,000 followers, a number which had already grown amidst rumours of Messi's possible arrival.
Less than 24 hours after the news broke, that number had skyrocketed to 5.7 million followers.
That total is more than double the followers of the NFL's Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs and even surpasses the 4.5 million enjoyed by 'America's team', the Dallas Cowboys.
Indeed, it is higher than all NFL, Major League Baseball and NHL teams and bigger than more than 75 per cent of NBA teams.
Inter Miami now has over 7.5 million followers across all social platforms and added more than five million new followers on the day of the announcement.
Inter though remains the second most popular Miami team on social media with the NBA's Miami Heat having 27 million followers on all platforms.
There are plenty more Messi fans who might be tempted to engage with the club's content — the player has 469 million followers of his personal Instagram account.
That figure makes him the second most popular sportsperson on Instagram, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo who has 588 million.
News of Messi's decision also hugely impacted the ticket market for MLS games.
Ticketing technology company Logitix analysed ticket demand across the league in the 24 hours since Messi's announcement and found there were four-times the number of tickets sold on the secondary market for Inter Miami matches (home and away) compared to the entire on-sale period of 169 days previous.
The average purchase price for Inter Miami home matches increased from $31 to $152 while for away games they increased from $94 to $207.
The largest increase was for Inter Miami's game against Charlotte FC on August 20 — with average sale prices rocketing from $18 to $169.
The average asking price for tickets for the club's League Cup match at Mexican team Cruz Azul on July 21 increased from $24 to $521.
Those numbers are sure to lead to MLS teams considering moving games featuring Messi to bigger stadiums.
Many MLS teams now play at purpose built venues holding 20-25,000 and the giant NFL arenas in most cities would offer around triple the capacity.
Miami and MLS are, however, banking on Messi's massive public appeal and the hunger for content about the player, his performances and his life, bringing more than just social media numbers and bumper attendances.
While Messi's contract has yet to be finalised and no details have been made public, MLS signed a 10-year deal with Apple TV, which began this season and that is likely to be an element in his contract.
Apple TV this week announced a four-part documentary series about Messi which was filmed in Paris, Qatar and Argentina, following his journey to December's World Cup win.
Messi gave exclusive access to the film-makers and with Apple having created an entire platform for MLS content there is clearly room for plenty of programming about his time in America.
The seven-times Ballon d'Or winner signed a lifetime endorsement deal with sportswear manufacturer Adidas in 2017 and the German company are likely to also cash-in on the player's arrival in a league where they are the exclusive kit provider to Miami and all the teams.