Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi celebrates a score during penalty kicks in the team's Leagues Cup soccer match against FC Dallas on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2023, in Frisco, Texas.

Grab your popcorn and join us in watching Messi’s latest MLS clinic on repeat

Lionel Messi’s start to his Inter Miami career already has American fans salivating – and owners of opposing sides aren’t above a spot of fangirling either.

Even before his team faced Lionel Messi in the Leagues Cup, FC Dallas owner Dan Hunt had nothing but praise for MLS’s most high-profile transfer ever.

In just a matter of games, Messi has seemingly transformed the fortunes of Inter Miami from bottom-feeders to championship contenders, just through his success in this Leagues Cup competition.

Speaking to Bloomberg before the game, Hunt compared Messi – arguably the greatest footballer ever (it’s too early in the morning to start a Twitter war) – to the man regarded by many as the greatest American sportsman of all time.

Hunt said that he couldn’t miss this match for the world – because to him: “It’s like watching Michael Jordan. You’re looking at one of the two greatest players of all time in that experience. So yeah, this is a great moment for FC Dallas.”

And the pint-sized Argentine laid on another footballing clinic in Texas. Messi had scored five goals in his opening three Inter Miami matches; it took him six minutes to increase that tally, converting Jordi Alba’s zinging cross first time past a bewildered goalkeeper.

As Dallas roared back into contention, carrying a 4-2 lead deep into the game’s dying embers, Miami started to look a little lost. Frazzled. Wanting the whistle to blow so they could escape to the sanctuary of the dressing room.

But Messi popped the team onto his shoulders like a 20kg barbell and did his stuff. One free-kick delivery was so inch-perfect that the Dallas defence treated it with the awe-struck wonder of a UFO.

Marco Farfan, his brain scrambled like your morning eggs, nutted it past his own goalkeeper.

And the piece de la resistance came minutes later as Messi unleashed another free-kick masquerading as a missile. Even a combination of Spiderman’s reflexes and Harry Potter’s wizardry would’ve been unable to prevent the ball from nestling into the top corner. 4-4.

In a recent interview, with the new podcast Offside with Taylor Twellman, Inter Miami co-owner Mas said: “I was at the facility every day, and I had an opportunity to talk to Lionel extensively. I asked him, ‘What are your aspirations? What are your dreams?’ Right? Like, ‘What do you want?’

“We’re competing for the best player in the world with the powerhouses of global soccer and with endless money that we cannot compete with. So, I had to try to find what makes Lionel Messi tick. What can we offer that someone else can’t?

“In this country, Lionel Messi has the opportunity to change the sport. If he would have stayed at PSG, wasn’t gonna change the sport. If he returned to Barcelona, either. And going to Saudi, wasn’t gonna change the sport there.”

Asked about his initial impressions of the World Cup winner in the flesh, Mas added: “Lionel Messi is a competitive beast. What I’ve seen, just in small little details and examples of things that he’s done with his team-mates at the training centre, is amazing.

“[We] have high expectations, but mine, so far, in this very short time period of interacting with him, I’ve been blown away.”

He’s not the only one; Messi seems to have conquered America in record time and got everybody eating out of the palm of his hand. The fangirling is only going to get more intense from here.

By Michael Lee

You can watch every single MLS match from wherever you are in the world with an MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

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