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MLS willing to be flexible to facilitate Messi deal, says commissioner

Christian Liewig - Corbis / Corbis Sport / Getty

Major League Soccer is willing to do whatever it takes to add Lionel Messi, with commissioner Don Garber saying the league is open to thinking "outside the box" in order to facilitate the signing of the Argentine superstar.

Messi's contract with Paris Saint-Germain is slated to expire at the end of the European club season this summer, and, as such, he's free to negotiate a deal with any interested suitor. The World Cup winner, 35, has been linked with Inter Miami in recent months.

Though he reportedly agreed in principle to a new deal with PSG in December, until he officially puts pen to paper, MLS, a single-entity operation, will explore ways to pull off what would easily be the biggest move in league history.

"You're dealing with perhaps the most special player in the history of the game," Garber told Paul Tenorio and Pablo Maurer of The Athletic. "So when there are rumors of him connected to Miami, that's great. And if it could happen, it would be terrific for MLS, it would be terrific for Messi and his family, and like everything with us, we try to run every opportunity down. I can't give any more details than that because we don't have them."

Meeting the enormous financial burden would require a unique deal structure, Garber added. The highest-paid player in MLS is currently Lorenzo Insigne, whose $14-million annual salary with Toronto FC is the largest in league history. Messi would undoubtedly dwarf that sum; he reportedly earns at least €25 million net per season in the French capital, and his contract included a €25-million signing bonus.

"Teams have the flexibility to do unique things," Garber said. "MLS is a single entity. If you're selling something that the collective owns, the collective has to approve that. So whatever (Inter Miami owner) Jorge (Mas) decides, with (MLS executive vice president Todd Durbin's) help to structure something, if we have the opportunity to do that, it's going to be outside the box."

Garber said in 2017 that MLS would never hand out another David Beckham-like contract, which gave the Englishman the option to buy an expansion club for $25 million upon his league-altering signing with the LA Galaxy in 2007. But Garber walked back those comments in relation to Messi.

All options appear to be on the table.

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