The reasons behind Lionel Messi’s move to the MLS
The ‘Lionel Messi effect’ has completely changed the fortunes of Inter Miami in Major League Soccer. So much so that even royalty now want a slice of the action. Argentina’s World Cup-winning captain was doing the business once more on Sunday evening, providing two assists as Miami won 3-1 away against defending MLS champions Los Angeles FC.
The turnaround in the David Beckham-owned club’s results could not be more dramatic since Messi’s first pulled on a pink shirt.
Without a win in nine matches before his arrival, they are now unbeaten in 11 games, have won their first-ever trophy with the Leagues Cup, reached another final, and have lifted themselves off the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference.
The Barcelona legend has been assisted by the arrival of his former Nou Camp teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. Success has come instantly in Florida, but the seven times Ballon d’Or winner has already set his sights on clinching the ultimate prize in US soccer this season.
Speaking to MLS Season Pass in his native Spanish, he said: “The group is growing more. I’ve been saying it since the beginning of all of this, we were lucky to get in a tournament and get to a final.
“Now, we’re going to look to hit the objective of being among the best eight to try and win the league. This is the way. We continue growing and obviously winning provides a lot of confidence.”
The grand arrival of Messi and his ex-Barca teammates has quickly changed Miami’s standing against their opponents, even there is still plenty of work to do to climb up the Eastern Conference.
But clear evidence of the gap being closed was illustrated by their recent US Open Cup triumph over conference leaders Cincinnati and a statement win on Sunday against MLS title-holders Los Angeles FC.
Even LA’s head coach Steve Cherundolo was resigned to an acceptance that the league now has a new major player to contend with.
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Speaking after Sunday’s match-up, he said: “The game shaped up exactly as we expected. We created a plethora of chances and just weren’t effective tonight, and that was the difference in the game.
“Certainly they’re not unbeatable [Inter Miami]. I think we saw that tonight and other nights as well. But I think it’s very clear that they’re extremely effective in the offensive end. What that means for opponents is that you have to be the same, because the few chance they do get, they obviously succeed in those. And if you’re going to play them and beat them, you have to finish yours.”
The star-studded face-off between LA and Miami attracted an A-list audience in the stadium. Prince Harry was in attendance to watch a Messi masterclass but he was joined by a host of Hollywood actors, including Leonardo Di Caprio, Will Ferrell, Tom Holland, Toby Maguire, Owen Wilson and Gerard Butler.
From the music world, Liam Gallagher, Selena Gomez, Tyga, BReal and Nas also could not resist grabbing a slice of the action as 36-year-old Messi continues to dazzle and pull the crowds wherever he goes.
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