Loons coach Adrian Heath turned the tables on reporters with what he called a scoop regarding Wednesday's news that global superstar Lionel Messi is headed to play in Major League Soccer.
"I'd like to say he'll be joining Minnesota United, but that's not quite the case," Heath said. "That's an exclusive for you."
Messi, the 35-year-old Argentine, told two Spanish sports news outlets he chose Inter Miami and MLS after his two-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain expired after this season. He also said final details needed to be worked out.
Inter Miami isn't on the Loons' schedule home or away this season. Messi's PSG contract expires June 30. He might not play for his new team until later this summer.
Messi turned down a reported $500 million offer to play in Saudi Arabia and chose not to return to Barcelona, where he played more than two decades from its youth to first teams.
He has won the Ballon d'Or — given to the world's best player — seven times and led Argentina to last December's World Cup title. He has scored more than 800 career goals.
"Anytime you get one of the greatest footballers of all time to come and play in your league — this time last year he was winning the World Cup," Heath said. "It's going to be great for the league. I know if I was a father with a young child, I'd be going to a stadium near me very soon because this might be the last chance you get at seeing one of the greatest players of all time."
Messi's arrival will be arguably MLS' biggest signing, maybe more so than England's David Beckham's signing a five-year deal to join the LA Galaxy in 2007. Beckham's presence was considered responsible for the league's Designated Player spot that now allows a team to pay three DPs salaries well beyond its salary cap.
Beckham's signing also allowed him to buy an MLS expansion team in any market except for New York City for $25 million when he retired. Forbes in February estimated the Inter Miami team he partly owns to be worth about $600 million.
Messi's Paris team lost a million of its nearly 70 million Instagram followers in 24 hours after he announced he wouldn't return.
"That tells you something," Heath said.
MLS and Apple have reportedly discussed giving Messi a share of revenue from its future MLS Season Pass TV subscriptions. Adidas offered a profit-sharing deal.
"That would be pretty amazing, to hopefully go up against arguably the greatest player of all time," Loons midfielder Hassani Dotson said. "I think that'd be great for the league as well and hopefully we keep that exposure, getting such players to come and hopefully in the future when they're in their prime."
Loons goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair is expected to leave after Saturday's game in Montreal for his Canadian national team in the upcoming FIFA international window — and the Concacaf Gold Cup that starts June 24 for three weeks.
Other expected Loons on leave: Striker Bongokuhle Hlongwane to his South African team, Zarek Valentin to Puerto Rico, Michael Boxall to New Zealand and Kervin Arriaga and Joseph Rosales to Honduras.
Heath said Saturday's game is "probably too early" for left back Kemar Lawrence's return from a hamstring injury. He also said they'll give center back Bakaye Dibassy a two-week break in the schedule after Saturday to heal further from a ruptured quadriceps tendon that has sidelined him since last August.