Gonzalo Higuain is hopeful his former Argentina team-mate Lionel Messi will one day join him in Major League Soccer.
Higuain is preparing for his second full season in MLS with Inter Miami, having joined from Juventus in September 2020.
Although the striker’s goalscoring exploits had regressed slightly towards the end of his time in Europe, Higuain was still regarded as a major coup for both Inter and MLS, where his older brother Federico has plied his trade since 2012.
MLS has previously been considered a competition where fading stars from Europe went to see out the remainder of their careers, with the likes of Thierry Henry, Andrea Pirlo, David Villa and Steven Gerrard all doing just that.
But the perception is changing slightly – it is becoming a proving ground for young talent, a viable stepping stone to Europe for South American players and even a place for established European stars who are still at the height of their powers.
Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne highlighted the shift last month by agreeing an end-of-season move to Toronto despite being virtually in his prime. While any MLS switch for Messi, already 34, would look a little more like a final pre-retirement move, Higuain reckons he would enjoy himself.
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) January 9, 2022
“It is a very important league and it is growing a lot,” Higuain told Stats Perform.
“Important players are coming and I think that in the future it will continue to grow much more.
“I hope [Messi goes to MLS] because it would be a benefit for MLS and for the country, and if he so wishes he would have fun and be happy here.”
Inter begin their 2022 MLS campaign at home to Chicago Fire on Saturday, with the David Beckham-backed franchise hoping to enjoy a major improvement from last season.
Phil Neville’s side finished 11th in the 14-team Eastern Conference in 2021, a place above Saturday’s opponents, while their points total of 41 was better than only six teams across the two MLS divisions.
It would seem Inter may have struggled even more were it not for Higuain, who scored 12 times. His haul of nine non-penalty (np) goals matched up well with his np-xG (expected goals) of 8.7, suggesting the team could really profit from dependable finishing if the service to him improves.
And bettering that return in front of goal is high on Higuain’s list of priorities.
“We are fine, looking forward to [the start of the season] and very excited,” he said. “It’s so close now, let’s hope it goes better than last year and we learn from the mistakes made so that this year it doesn’t happen again. We are excited to have a good year.
“I want to improve my numbers, which I did my whole career, improve year after year. I hope that this year I can do better to help the team qualify [for the playoffs] and be able to compete for MLS.
“I hope I can improve my numbers, that’s my goal and that’s what I’ve prepared this pre-season.”
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