Lionel Messi joined an Inter Miami side that were undoubtedly the laughing stock of MLS, but has immediately transformed them into the country’s own mini-Barcelona – and all while barely breaking stride.
The Argentine’s move into the Miami sunset felt like the inevitable next step after his time at Paris Saint-Germain came to an end and it became increasingly clear that the curtain was dropping on his immortal European escapade.
After rejecting Saudi Arabia, Messi was confirmed to be heading back across the pond in what has proven to be a seismic deal for football’s top flight in the United States, immediately becoming the poster boy for MLS football.
Except he’s not just the poster boy. He’s much more than that. To absolutely no surprise.
It’s taken Messi just two games to put everybody in America on watch about just how mind-blowingly absurd he is when it comes to football.
Sounds ridiculous to even consider the fact that he could be anything but that, but following a disappointing two years in Paris and father time playing catch-up, there were naturally doubts about his ambitions heading to Miami.
In two games for Inter Miami so far, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has slotted into a side that sits bottom of the Eastern Conference and completely rebooted the team in the Leagues Cup, grabbing three goals and an assist to get himself off the mark.
We’ve all seen that obscene free-kick goal on debut, but we’re not here to talk about that today. Because he’s been at it again in his newfound pink colours.
Having brushed aside Cruz Azul in matchday one of the Leagues Cup, Inter Miami put together a scintillating 4-0 thrashing of Atlanta United in matchday two, which was made in Catalonia thanks to the efforts of Messi and long-time colleague Sergio Busquets, who bossed proceedings at the base of midfield without anyone ever getting near him.
But for as slick as he looked, we’re of course here to talk about the menacing man up top. The little magician who has seemingly instantly revived Inter Miami from the depths of hell that was Phil Neville-ball and now has them inspired, playing a ruthless, free-flowing attacking style to the delight of supporters.
After effortlessly pinging a winning goal into top bins from a free-kick last time out, Messi produced a different style of magic against Atlanta to put his side 2-0 up after 21 minutes and seal a very early brace on his first start.
Picking up the ball on the halfway line, the 36-year-old roams into the acres of space before him by barely breaking out of a walking pace, before slotting the ball to teammate Robert Taylor.
You’ve seen how it goes about a thousand times from this point on.
Lionel Messi is taking the proverbial out in Miami. A brace on his full debut.
Doing it in his sleep, at this point.pic.twitter.com/D2WnBs9i4a
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) July 26, 2023
Effortless is an understatement. But we can’t exactly portion too much blame to Atlanta’s backtracking defenders, because frankly, who on earth wants to make a fool of themselves by closing down Messi one on one and getting turned inside out and left for dead?
Not us, that’s for sure.
It’s a textbook Messi goal. One we’ve seen him carve out countless times in Europe, against some of the most imposing and tactically astute defences we’ve been lucky enough to witness in the last decade or two.
But it never gets old. Ever. Especially watching him do it at minimum effort. Playing like he’s got slippers on, these days. And still parades around the field making everyone else look a fool.
While we eagerly await his MLS debut and how quickly he and Busquets can fire Inter Miami off the bottom of the table and into the play-off positions, one can only hopelessly wonder what it would’ve been like to see Messi link up with one of the league’s greatest managers.
Phil Neville, we just know you had a plan for this man and his sheer wizardry. That combination would’ve been the only thing more special than Messi’s sublime set-up and finish against Atlanta.
By Mitchell Wilks
You can watch every single MLS match from wherever you are in the world with an MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.