There were big expectations surrounding Lionel Messi’s move to Inter Miami, but he’s already on the way to exceeding them.
Just ask Messi’s new Inter Miami teammates.
“My expectations were obviously really high. But he’s even passed my expectations,” Inter Miami defender Noah Allen said. “It’s really beautiful to see him play. He just makes it easy for everyone, and it’s so awesome to watch in the game.”
After kicking the winning goal on a perfectly placed free kick in the 94th minute Friday in his Inter Miami debut, Messi followed up that memorable night with another one that won’t be forgotten anytime soon in his first start with the team. Messi, 36, played a role in every one of Inter Miami’s goals in Tuesday night’s 4-0 domination of Atlanta United at DRV PNK Stadium in its second match of the Leagues Cup competition.
Messi scored Inter Miami’s first two goals in the eighth minute and 22nd minute, picked up the secondary assist on the third goal kicked in by Robert Taylor in the 44th minute and then recorded the primary assist for another goal by Taylor in the 53rd minute before being subbed out of Tuesday’s match in the 78th minute.
Through Messi’s first two matches with Inter Miami, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and World Cup Champion has scored three goals.
With all of the attention Messi is drawing from defenders, his Inter Miami teammates are taking advantage of the extra space his presence creates.
“From my point of view, you have a guy like that, he’s going to attract two or three players to him,” Inter Miami defender DeAndre Yedlin said. “So for me, it’s like a kid at a candy shop.”
Allen added on Messi: “It’s so easy. He makes the game so easy for every single player on the field. He truly is the best.”
While Messi has quickly adapted to his new surroundings, those around him have worked to make that adjustment a smooth one.
“At first I didn’t really know what to expect because I’ve never been around a player of that capacity before,” Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender said. “But he’s a pretty humble guy. He’s chill. I think he’s still transitioning, still trying to get a feel of how everything functions over here. So, for myself as well as some of the other players, just making him feel welcome, making him feel like he’s one of our teammates and making him feel comfortable here.
“I say good morning to him, try and chat with him when I can to make him feel like he’s part of the team. Again, just treat him like one of my teammates. He’s somebody who wherever he goes there all these cameras and lights and people want him to sign things and people want to talk to him. I just try to be as normal as I possibly can.”
The Leagues Cup, a new World Cup-style tournament, includes all 47 teams of Major League Soccer and Liga MX, the Mexican League. Both MLS and LIGA MX teams paused their league seasons for four weeks to compete in the tournament, as the top three teams in the tourney receive automatic bids into the 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup.
With Tuesday’s victory, Inter Miami won its group to punch its ticket to the knockout rounds of the Leagues Cup. Inter Miami’s Round of 32 match will be played on Aug. 2 at DRV PNK Stadium, with the opponent still to be determined.
“He’s my teammate now. He’s our teammate,” Yedlin said of Messi. “He’s part of this team, and he wants to win like everybody else. And he’s been a joy to be around, obviously not just on the field. He’s obviously an amazing talent, but off the field he really helps a lot of the younger guys, even older guys like myself.”
This story was originally published July 25, 2023, 10:54 PM.