For Inter Miami and the MLS, Lionel Messi’s unavoidable magic completes a memorable evening

“This is how it’s meant to end,” thought tearful Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham, who is no stranger to placing dead balls into top corners, as soon as he heard the free kick was awarded at full time.

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The owner anticipated the ridiculous inevitability of his new signing’s genius, and that’s exactly how it played out. In the 94th minute of the Leagues Cup, a competition between MLS and Liga MX teams, Lionel Messi, making his debut, curled in a trademark 25-yard shot to secure a 2-1 victory over Cruz Azul.

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In the DRV PNK stadium stands, Beckham was overcome with emotion, and the 21,000 supporters who had gathered in joy for a football festival were in a state of frenzy. “It felt like a film that I could watch again and again,” Inter’s new head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino continued.

𓃵 on X: "@ESPNFC This is why Lionel Messi is the Greatest of all time.   https://t.co/XpCLfhut0a" / X

After a few minutes, the match concluded, making it the best night in Inter Miami CF’s brief and, up until this week, largely sad history. On the first night, Kim Kardashian, Serena Williams, and LeBron James were among the attendees who attested to the Messi effect in full.

Lionel Messi's inevitable magic seals famous night for Inter Miami and MLS  | Inter Miami | The Guardian

“It doesn’t feel real until I see him playing in that jersey on the pitch.” Before the game, Battered Herons podcast presenter Daniel Granada said, “I have the shirt, I see the jerseys, but until I see him with the ball at his feet it won’t be real.”

ImageInside the makeshift, freshly enlarged stadium in Fort Lauderdale, fans could be heard yelling “Messi, Messi” almost nonstop as they watched the home bench in hopes of seeing movement. For the duration of the first half, the new signing sat there, generally grinning. The crowd yelled for their favourite substitute after Inter defender Ian Fray appeared to have suffered a serious injury. Later, Messi would thank his teammate for the victory.

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The legendary substitute stretched and waved intermittently at the start of the second half, drawing little attention from the fans. Then the moment arrived. Messi arrived far earlier than the pre-match speculation that he would only make a cameo, donning the identical pink No. 10 jersey that hundreds of fans were wearing inside the stadium. Another recent Inter Miami coup, Sergio Busquets, his former Barcelona teammate, joined him. The ancient telepathy still exists, for those who are curious. For their link-up play alone, Inter will be entertaining to watch, and Busquets is still a formidable player.

LeBron James and Serena Williams were among the thousands of spectators taking pictures of Messi from the stands during Friday’s match.See the picture in full screenDuring Friday’s game, many of fans snapped images of Messi from the stands, including LeBron James and Serena Williams. Eva Marie Uzcategui/AFP/Getty Images is the photographer.
You were curious in Messi and Busquets’ thoughts on the first half, though. Their team had a disorganised start, with a ragged rear end, poor thinking, and heavy possession. Maybe the occasion affected them as well? The Mexican team, who hasn’t won a game in Liga MX yet, forced several saves, struck the crossbar, and missed an open goal rebound. Even Messi’s intervention would not have won the game if there had been better finishing.Image

Just before halftime, Inter managed to level the score and proceed. Winger Robert Taylor was found by Robbie Robinson’s cross-field pass, and he finished beautifully with a right-footed shot from the edge of the box. After 65 minutes, Cruz Azul finally earned an equaliser, which set up the exciting climax. Opportunities presented themselves on both ends on a usually muggy summer night in south Florida, as two teams that were last in their respective leagues fatigued terribly. But Messi delivered the decisive strike, ending his new team’s 11-game losing streak.

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