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Lionel Messi, Barcelona pals catapulting once bottom-feeder Inter Miami

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Lionel Messi Inter Miami CF
Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi (10) celebrates after scoring against Orlando City during the first half of a Leagues Cup soccer match Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Ever since the transfer of Lionel Messi to Inter Miami was announced, it took social media by storm and shocked soccer fans all around the world. This meant that the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner would mark his end in Ligue 1 at PSG, decline a deal from the Saudi League, and turn down any chance of reuniting with Barcelona. This marked a new chapter in his life to explore playing soccer in a different way in Major League Soccer. 

There were high expectations and big shoes for Messi to fill at Inter Miami to work their way up the ranks of their division. With a player of his caliber who can score in various ways, make runs, and pass, Inter Miami would benefit greatly from his skillset.

From the five games we have seen him play, it could be said that fans and Inter Miami are more than satisfied with the performance he’s put on. His debut game against Cruz Azul was a special one. In his first minutes on the pitch, he showed the fans what he was made of by making runs and setting up teammates with accurate through balls. However, the most talked about moment from the game was Messi’s free kick in the 94th minute that secured a 2-1 victory over Cruz Azul. Scoring a game-winner in a debut game, leave it to the legendary playmaker to do something like that.

His second game against Atlanta United showed again his efficiency and crafty ways of setting up teammates and scoring the ball. He scored two goals, beating a one-on with the keeper and scoring off an assist by teammate Robert Taylor. In this game, we also saw Messi play the facilitator role more too as he set up successful runs for Josef Martinez and Taylor and recorded an assist as well.

“I’ve watched him play all my life at the highest level, and now, to play with him and to be in the same team as him is crazy,” Taylor said. “His decision-making is unbelievable – I can’t see him doing a wrong decision at all during the game or training, so you just want to try and learn.”

Lionel Messi
Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi celebrates a goal against Charlotte FC during the second half of a Leagues Cup soccer match Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin)

Against Orlando City, we saw how well Messi moved on the field when he was not in possession of the ball. Recognizing the best runs on the spot and getting into position were two aspects of Messi’s game that helped secure the win over Orlando City. Messi scored two goals, one of which was when he received a pass in the box from Taylor and controlled it with his chest to score the first goal for Miami. The second goal shows his positioning, where both Taylor and Martinez set up a great play for Messi in the box to slot it in for his second goal of the night. This game showed how Messi doesn’t always have to be on the ball to impact the game.

He poached a pair of goals in the Leagues Cup Round of 16 against FC Dallas, which Inter Miami won in penalties, before picking up another one in a quarterfinal triumph over Charlotte.

Recently, former Barcelona defender Jordi Alba finalized his contract with Miami and joined the pitch with Busquets and Messi against Orlando.

Whether it was Busquets’ clean passes and touches, Messi’s performance, and Alba’s defense, it was clear all three players still have their competitive edge and talents on the field. Now, Inter Miami is in the semifinals of the Leagues Cup and suddenly favorites to make a serious run at the MLS Cup despite sitting in dead-last in the Eastern Conference.

MLS Cup odds

  • FC Cincinnati +400
  • LAFC +550
  • Philadelphia Union +750
  • St. Louis City SC +1000
  • New England Revolution +1100
  • Inter Miami +1200
  • Seattle Sounders +1200
  • Atlanta United +1400
  • Nashville +1400

Odds courtesy of DraftKings. Click here for more.

For more on Lionel Messi and MLS, visit AMNY.com