Adding to the Legacy: Lionel Messi Joins TIME’s Athlete of the Year Winners

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Check out the entire list of TIME’s Athlete of the Year winners over the years as Lionel Messi joins the hall of fame with LeBron James and Aaron Judge.

Lionel Messi caps off his stellar 2023 with another award to his name. The Inter Miami star has been named TIME’s Athlete of the Year 2023 for his astonishing impact since arriving in MLS. With the award, Messi joins an elite list of athletes including LeBron James, and Aaron Judge.

TIME is well-known for its famous Person of the Year award, which has been given out annually since 1927. In its nearly 100-year history, winners have included Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., and Elon Musk. The Athlete of the Year award, on the other hand, is much newer, with the inaugural honour given out in 2019. Messi is the first non-American to win the award.

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Messi beat over an extensive list of outstanding sportsmen, including Ballon d’Or rivals Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, to receive the TIME award. Tennis legend Novak Djokovic was also in the running after winning the Australian Open, French Open, and US Open in 2023. Last year’s winner, MLB all-star Aaron Judge, was also in the mix.Messi joined the likes of Simone Biles and basket ball legend LeBron James in the sporting hall of fame after adding yet another award to his collection.

TIME’s Athlete of the Year winners

  • 2019 – United States Women’s National Team (soccer)
  • 2020 – LeBron James
  • 2021 – Simone Biles
  • 2022 – Aaron Judge
  • 2023 – Lionel Messi

The 36-year-old moved to Inter Miami in July, making an immediate and positive impact on the team. Messi’s leadership led the squad to a historic victory, clinching the Leagues Cup and securing the franchise’s first-ever silverware. Beyond the confines of the locker room, Messi’s influence extended to reshaping perceptions of soccer in the United States.

Messi has been a big success in his first few months in Miami, and there are high hopes for him next season. However, the Argentine confessed to TIME that he considered other options before joining MLS, including a return to Barcelona and a lucrative move to Saudi Arabia.

“The truth is that fortunately, I had several options on the table that were interesting, and I had to analyze them and think, even weigh them up with my family, before making the final decision to come to Miami,” Messi said after receiving the award.

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