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Answering All Your Lionel Messi Questions Ahead of Inter Miami Debut

Answering All Your Lionel Messi Questions Ahead of Inter Miami Debut

Alex WindleyJuly 20, 2023

Answering All Your Lionel Messi Questions Ahead of Inter Miami Debut

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    Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi (2nd L) is presented by (from R) owners of Inter Miami CF David Beckham, Jose R. Mas and Jorge Mas as the newest player for Major League Soccer's Inter Miami CF, at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on July 16, 2023. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

    CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

    It’s official!

    After declaring his intentions to play in Major League Soccer a month earlier, Inter Miami announced the signing of seven-time Ballon d’Or Winner and World Cup Champion Lionel Messi.

    Inter Miami CF @InterMiamiCF

    BIENVENIDO 1️⃣0️⃣ pic.twitter.com/df1TJQQoYv

    The football world was excited and intrigued when news broke that the 36-year-old would be joining the South Florida-based club.

    The Argentine has been a world-class player for his entire career and his move to MLS has generated a lot of attention.

    Miami leaned into their newfound spotlight as they hosted an unveiling event, dubbed La PresentaSIon, at their home base, DRV PNK Stadium, where they celebrated the signings of Messi and his ex-Barcelona teammate Sergio Busquets, who has also recently joined the team.

    Fans and pundits alike are eager to see what Messi can do in this new environment and many are hoping that his presence will help elevate Miami, who are currently sitting last in the Eastern Conference with no wins through their last 11 matches.

    Major League Soccer @MLS

    Can anyone in the East catch up with @fccincinnati? 🤔#AllForCincy pic.twitter.com/3rOEPAODC4

    In anticipation of his upcoming debut on Friday against Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup, fans want the answers to several questions that are swirling around about La Pulga before he steps on the field.

    Here are some answers to those inquiries ahead of Messi’s Miami debut.

Why Did Messi Choose to Go to MLS?

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    FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - JULY 16: Argentine superstar Lionel Messi greets fans during the his presentation as the newest player for Inter Miami at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States on July 16, 2023. US club Inter Miami has signed Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, the Major League Soccer (MLS) side announced on Saturday. (Photo by Arturo Jimenez/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

    Arturo Jimenez/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    Many believed Messi still had enough drive and talent to compete at the highest level in Europe.

    In 32 matches played with Paris Saint Germain last season, the Argentine scored and assisted 16 times, as the French giants went on to win their 11th league title.

    Just six months before that, Messi scored twice and was instrumental in securing his country’s third World Cup title.

    Despite playing at a high level, the Rosario native opted to relocate his skills to South Florida.

    During an exclusive interview with Mundo Deportivo in June, Messi expressed his desire to live a more peaceful lifestyle in the United States while still maintaining a competitive edge following his World Cup victory in December of 2022.

    “Winning the World Cup, was what I needed to close my career [in Europe] and live in the United States in a different way and enjoy the day-to-day, but with the same responsibility of wanting to win and to always do things well, but with more tranquility.”

    Messi was drawn to the caliber of competition within MLS, the cultural and lifestyle offerings, and the potential business prospects of living and playing in the US. He’s already made an impact after buying groceries in Publix.

    beIN SPORTS USA @beINSPORTSUSA

    Just a Florida man at @Publix 😁🛒

    Imagine running into Leo Messi at the supermarket! 😱 pic.twitter.com/sas2ccX4xr

    His Team Messi brand has already launched a Miami-inspired fashion line that features the club’s signature pink and black colors, with more merch to follow.

    In the end, Messi chose to join MLS to start a new chapter in his career and life after winning the World Cup.

Where Will Messi Line Up On the Pitch?

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    FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA - JULY 18: Lionel Messi of Inter Miami CF trains during an Inter Miami CF Training Session at Florida Blue Training Center on July 18, 2023 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

    Megan Briggs/Getty Images

    When it comes to where Messi will line up on the field for Miami, there is no doubt that he will be the most effective as a forward or attacking midfielder for the team.

    Miami is currently ranked 25th in the league for goals scored per match and miserably, ranked 29th in terms of creating goal-scoring opportunities.

    When Messi steps on the field for the South Florida club, his skillset and agility make him a nightmare for MLS defenders to handle.

    The Argentine’s vision and passing ability also will make him a threat in the midfield – a place where Miami desperately needs help.

    Ultimately, it will be up to head coach Tata Martino to determine where Messi will play, based on the team’s needs,

    In Martino’s first game in charge for Miami, he lined up his side in a 4-3-3/4-1-4-1, with wingers who stayed wide and a midfield that was industrious and technically proficient.

    It’s fair to say that when Messi gets on the pitch for the Herons, he could line up as a right winger, cutting in on his favored left foot while being free to drift in the final third and create opportunities when the team needs them.

Will Messi Play on Turf?

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    MLS Soccer: US Open Cup Final: Aerial view of Atlanta United vs Minnesota United action at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Fans in the foreground waving flags and banners.
Atlanta, GA 8/27/2019
CREDIT: Simon Bruty (Photo by Simon Bruty /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
(Set Number: X162844 TK1 )

    Set Number: X162844 TK1

    The issue of artificial turf in MLS stadiums has been a widely discussed topic within the league, even prior to Messi’s arrival. Famously, Thierry Henry was derisive of turf during his designated-player stint with the Red Bulls.

    Grass is the preferred playing surface for most football leagues worldwide. FIFA has even teamed up with Michigan State University to support the research and advancement of natural grass in preparation for the 2026 World Cup which is being hosted by the US, Canada, and Mexico.

    With Messi in the league and Miami set to play two matches away from home on turf vs. Atlanta United and Charlotte FC later in the year, there are concerns surrounding the participation of the Argentine on the controversial surface.

    In an interview with Paul Tenorio and Felipe Cardenas of The Athletic, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said it’d be up to the individual teams to decide whether or not they want to lay down natural grass when the World Cup winner comes to town.

    “My expectations are that that’s what they will do, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to figure all of that out, MLS promotes a lot of international games, and we have been able to bring natural grass into those stadiums, but we’ve never done that for a regular-season game.”

    Whether other teams decide to lay out grass or not, Messi’s appearance on turf fields is still uncertain. Ultimately, the decision will lie with Messi and his head coach.

What Trophies Could Messi Win While in MLS?

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 03: The MLS Cup trophy is displayed at the Apple retail store at The Grove on November 3, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. Philadelphia Union and Los Angeles FC will play for the MLS championship game at the Banc of California Stadium  on November 5, 2022, in Los Angeles, California.(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The number of competitions that Miami will play in during Messi’s time with the team will provide the Argentine with the opportunity to add more trophies to his already impressive collection.

    MLS Cup is the most coveted of them all.

    For Miami however, they currently at the bottom of the East. Their poor form to start the season may make it difficult for them to qualify for the playoffs this year. Regardless, the team will have an opportunity to seriously compete for MLS Cup next season.

    Messi has the possibility to win other trophies as well, such as the US Open Cup, where Miami is currently a semi-finalist, the Supporter’s Shield, awarded to the team with the best regular season record and the Leagues Cup, an inter-league soccer tournament between MLS and Liga MX.

    Messi also has the potential to win individual awards like the Golden Boot, given to the player with the highest number of goals, and MLS MVP.

Will Messi Dominate in a Physical League Like MLS?

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    Argentina's Lionel Messi (R) fights for the ball during a friendly football match against Australia at the Workers' Stadium in Beijing on June 15, 2023. (Photo by WANG Zhao / AFP) (Photo by WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images)

    WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images

    Messi is one of, if not the greatest player of all time. But MLS won’t be a walk in the park.

    There has been a history of high-profile players coming to the league and struggling to make an impact. In 2015, Andrea Pirlo signed for NYCFC, but his performances on the field were underwhelming. Similarly, when Steven Gerrard joined the LA Galaxy, he only scored five goals in 35 appearances in a disappointing stint with the club.

    Though Messi is world-class, there are some concerns that he could start slowly.

    In a roundtable interview following Messi’s first training session on Tuesday, David Beckham reflected on his experience in the league after joining the Galaxy in 2007. He emphasized to reporters that Messi will require an adjustment period.

    “For those first two years for me [with the Galaxy,] it was a challenge. [Messi and Busquets] will still need time to adapt. No matter. They might surprise us, but [the club] will have to be patient. It’s a different style of football [in MLS.] It’s a different level from what they’re used to, but the level of soccer in this country is at a good level.”

    While Messi is undoubtedly a remarkable player, it’s not uncommon for players to require an adjustment period to adapt to the physical demands of MLS.

    However, Messi’s abilities on the field could be enough for him to skip the acclimation period and establish himself as one of the best players the league has ever seen.

Will Messi Ultimately Finish His Career in MLS?

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    FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA - JULY 16:  Lionel Messi looks on during Inter Miami CF Hosts

    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    It’s difficult to say for sure whether or not Messi will finish his career in MLS. In an interview with BeIn Sport, Messi said he’s at peace with his decision to leave European football after winning the World Cup with Argentina.

    beIN SPORTS USA @beINSPORTSUSA

    🇦🇷 Messi spoke exclusively with beIN SPORTS 👊

    He revealed what it was like to win the World Cup and shared more details about his stay at PSG 🇫🇷

    Watch the full interview here ⬇️https://t.co/lvI4KTLNF1

    “As I said before [after winning the World Cup,] I have nothing left to achieve. I have achieved everything.”

    While it’s certainly possible that he could retire after his time in Miami, there could be a chance that he could move back to Newell’s Old Boys for one last season before officially hanging up his boots for good.

    In the end, only time will tell where Messi will finish his career, but one thing is for certain: he will end his career as one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

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