Argentina and Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi has been named Time magazine’s Athlete of the Year.

Messi joined Miami in July and scored 11 goals in 14 games in all competitions to help them lift the Leagues Cup, their first ever trophy.

The 36-year-old also won the Ballon d’Or for the eighth time in October.

“Lionel Messi this year managed to do what once seemed impossible, when he signed with Inter Miami: turning the US into a soccer country,” read Time.

The magazine said Messi’s arrival had driven a surge in attendances, ticket prices, merchandise sales and viewership of MLS games.

The striker joins the likes of gymnast Simone Biles, swimmer Michael Phelps and NBA superstar LeBron James in winning the award.

After leaving Paris St-Germain at the end of his contract Messi said his preference was an emotional return to boyhood club Barcelona, but that move never materialised.

It then came down to Miami or a move to the Saudi Pro League, which has invested heavily in foreign talent over the past two seasons.

“My first option was to return to Barcelona, but it was not possible,” he told Time. “I tried to return, and it did not happen.

“It is also true that later I was thinking a lot about going to the Saudi league, where I know the country and they have created a very powerful competition that can become an important league in the near future.

“It was Saudi Arabia or MLS, and both options seemed very interesting to me.”

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