Máirtín Ó Ruairí
Game FOX Indoor Sports
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Lionel Messi’s much-anticipated debut for Inter Miami began with the Argentine superstar on the bench. After 53 minutes on Friday night, it was time. Messi completed his stretching routine, tinkering a little with his cleats, patiently waiting on the sidelines for the game to stop, and, finally, took his first steps into a brand new chapter.
Messi came off the bench in his Inter Miami debut against Cruz Azul in the League Cup from the bench because he is short on game action, but the crowd at the DRV PNK Stadium doesn’t care. They stamped their feet, chanted his name and stood in anticipation, until Benjamin Cremaschi was replaced by Argentine superstar and World Cup winner.
Messi arrived at his new team just under two hours before the start at the DRV PNK Stadium, but on the official team list named among the representatives.
The move was expected, given Messi’s recent lack of competitive activity and his limited training activity since announcing his move to Major League Soccer.
[What to expect in Messi’s debut? It’s a bit of a mystery]
Also starting on the bench was another new arrival Sergio Busquets, who enjoyed successful years playing with Messi at Barcelona.
Messi looked relaxed as he exited the team bus and walked into the stadium, stopping briefly to pose for selfies with fans.
The 36-year-old’s move was hailed as a hugely significant signing for Inter Miami, MLS in general, and American soccer as a whole, just eight months after leading Argentina to a dramatic World Cup triumph.
However, some patience is required before it plays a full role. Messi has not played 90 minutes since scoring in Argentina’s 2-0 international friendly win over Australia in Beijing on June 15. Busquets, meanwhile, has not seen competitive action since May 28.
[How Lionel Messi’s Miami arrival mirrors the Beckham Experiment]
Unsurprisingly, some heavyweight celebrities were also present. LeBron James was in the building, posing for pre-match photos with Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham and his pop star ex-wife Victoria. Serena Williams was nearby, as was Kim Kardashian, watching as Messi made his way to the bench and the pre-match festivities ended.
Messi and James shared a warm embrace and some kind words were passed – from one GOAT to another, arguably – as the crowd chanted Messi’s name.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.
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