Lionel Messi need not finish his career in Major League Soccer to help expand the game in the USA, says Charlotte FC boss Miguel Angel Ramirez, with the Spaniard suggesting the Argentine's public figure has already helped grow the sport stateside.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward, fresh off the success of a Ligue 1 title in his first season away from Barcelona, has been linked with a move to MLS to finish up his career, with just a year left on his deal at Parc des Princes and a final World Cup with Argentina looming.
Yet Ramirez does not think that the attacker needs to wrap up his time playing his trade in the competition, arguing that his global reach and reputation has already enhanced the game's reputation.
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What has Ramirez said about Messi in MLS?
“I would tell you that, as an impact on society, it is not necessary for Messi to reach MLS," Ramirez told GOAL. "We are already noticing it.
"It's not just the Latino community that comes to the games. Many Americans come and more and more boys play soccer. There has been a paradigm shift in this country.
"People have told me [that] neither basketball nor American football has achieved what soccer has achieved."
Could Messi make the move to MLS?
Over the past decade, North America's largest league has become something of a coda spot for several storied footballers, with stars such as Messi's former Argentina team-mate Gonzalo Higuain and ex-England striker Wayne Rooney among those to make the swap.
But with at least a year to go in Paris, the prospect of an immediate move by the star is fanciful, especially with Qatar 2022 and a likely last credible chance to capture the World Cup looming.
Even beyond that, there could be well be a return to Barcelona on the cards, with the Argentine's career-long association with the Blaugrana always likely to suggest a homecoming move.