Lionel Messi made history with yet another screamer in Inter Miami’s first ever trophy win
Lionel Messi has become the most decorated player in football history with his first trophy in America, and you get the feeling it won’t be the last he lifts with Inter Miami.
No import in American sports history has arrived with quite the same hype as the 36-year-old.
Major League Soccer has had a number of star signings over the years, who have all ranged from underwhelming to pretty good, but none of them have quite lived up to their billing by instantly making mincemeat of the opposition quite like Messi.
David Beckham and Wayne Rooney are two figures that know all too well the difficulties of adapting to football in an entirely new continent and both struck cautious tones when asked about Messi’s immediate impact.
“He won’t find it easy here,” DC United manager Rooney said after Messi’s arrival was confirmed.
“It sounds mad, but players who come in find it’s a tough league. The travelling, the different conditions in different cities, and there’s a lot of energy and intensity on the pitch.”
Inter Miami joint-owner Beckham recognised as much. His club sit rock bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference. They’d failed to win each of their last 11 matches (eight defeats, three draws) prior to Messi’s arrival.
“Leo’s still going to need time no matter how good he is, no matter what his stature is, he and Sergio [Busquets] are going to need time to adapt no matter,” said Beckham.
“They might surprise us, we might start winning every single game, but we have to be patient.”
No patience necessary.
Messi marked his Inter Miami debut with an instantly iconic injury-time free-kick against Cruz Azul – the match-winner, of course – and hasn’t looked back, scoring in every single game of the Leagues Cup en route to winning the competition.
His 10th goal in seven games opened the scoring in the final and was arguably the best yet in Miami pink, a classic Messi strike into the top corner unleashed from outside the box.
Lionel Andrés Messi 🐐 pic.twitter.com/56c6f8RzDf
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) August 20, 2023
Nashville SC battled back to push the final to extra time and penalties and the shootout went the way down to the wire, eventually decided when it came down to the ‘keepers.
Messi scored Miami’s first spot-kick and was front and centre of the wild celebrations as he claimed the 44th trophy of his career – no footballer in history has lifted more silverware.
He also claimed the tournament’s individual awards for top scorer and best player, naturally.
Another trophy for Leo. 🏆🐐 pic.twitter.com/SYoqBQDXTc
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 20, 2023
This is a different level entirely to Beckham and Rooney, Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba, Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and all the rest.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was probably closest when it came to comic book heroics – the Swede scored 53 goals in 58 games for LA Galaxy, including some ridiculous strikes – but he never won any silverware while out in the States. Messi has already led his team to a trophy at the first time of asking.
You have to go back to Pele at New York Cosmos in the 1970s that US soccer was blessed with this level of greatness.
A seven-time Ballon d’Or winner that is the hot favourite to claim an eighth, Messi looks all set to become the first player playing outside of Europe to win football’s most prestigious individual accolade.
“I said it many times throughout my career, the Ballon d’Or is one of the most beautiful [prizes] on an individual level,” Messi said earlier this week.
“[But] I never gave it importance, because for me the most important [trophies] are the collective [ones], at a group level.”
Why not both? Messi still has a genuine claim as the best footballer in the world right now and Inter Miami are blessed to have him.