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‘Lionel Messi is enhancing the MLS’: Former Premier League manager Dean Smith on facing the GOAT at Charlotte FC

‘Lionel Messi is enhancing the MLS’: Former Premier League manager Dean Smith on facing the GOAT at Charlotte FC

Lionel Messi has shone a spotlight on MLS since joining Inter Miami in June 2023, and former Premier League boss Dean Smith can’t wait to come up against the World Cup-winning captain. 

Having recently been appointed Charlotte FC manager, Dean Smith will have the unenviable task of setting his team up to nullify Lionel Messi as best as he can on two occasions in the new MLS campaign. 

Clearly the former Aston Villa and Leicester City boss is excited at the prospect of coming up against arguably the greatest footballer of all time, while also recognising how much of an impact he’s having in America in such a short period of time. 

Lionel Messi: Dean Smith head coach of Charlotte FC speaks at a press conference during a MLS media day event at the Miami Convention Center on January 11, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images) former Aston Villa manager

Dean Smith is excited at the prospect of playing against a team containing Messi (Image credit: Getty Images)

“Yeah [I’m looking forward to playing Messi], the name’s synonymous with the sport in general, and he’s certainly helped to build a massive interest in MLS,” Smith tells FourFourTwo

“But it’s growing more than just because of the impact of one player. It’s a young league, a growing league, so having the world’s best player here can only enhance it. I’m really looking forward to pitting my wits against a side with Messi in it.”

When asked if he ever expected to be facing a side containing Lionel Messi when starting out his professional managerial career at Walsall in 2011, though, Smith explains this development has earned him the right to compete at the elite level.

Inter Miami attacker and Argentina forward Lionel Messi playing in MLS

Messi has caused all eyes to be on MLS recently (Image credit: Getty Images)

“I’ve had to work hard to get where I am now,” Smith adds. “To coach in the Premier League was huge for me – I remember coaching under-14 teams while my daughter did her homework on the side of the pitch, so to now be pitting my wits against the world’s best is testament to what hard work can get you.”

For the Englishman, his focus is on fighting across the whole MLS season, and not just the daunting task of stopping the diminutive Argentine.

“My job now is to help build Charlotte FC into a team that competes regularly, as one of the top six or eight that fights for the trophy at the end of the season. I want to create a new identity for them with a successful style of play.”

More Lionel Messi stories 

After Lionel Messi missed a friendly for Inter Miami in Hong Kong, the government demanded a refund.

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, now team-mates at Inter Miami, don’t see why they can’t win the quadruple this season

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