Lionel Messi is expected to make his debut for Inter Miami against Mexican club Cruz Azul on Friday, but he may start from the bench. The Argentine superstar arrived in South Florida amid great excitement and was introduced to fans at a special stadium event on Sunday. However, there has been a shift in tone since the initial hype, with some acknowledging that Messi’s full potential may take time to manifest.
Having only started training this week after spending time with his family on vacation, the opening game of the new Leagues Cup might come too soon for Messi to start. Co-owner David Beckham stated that Messi would play “some part of the game,” and coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, Messi’s compatriot and former Barcelona coach, hinted that he might begin as a substitute.
At the pre-match press conference, Martino emphasized the need to make careful decisions about Messi’s usage, acknowledging the high expectations surrounding the football icon’s debut.
While Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets, another former teammate of Messi’s from their Barcelona days, expressed his need for time to adapt and admitted it would be challenging to play the full 90 minutes in his debut match.
Despite this, the fervent anticipation of fans, who have paid a premium for tickets to witness Messi’s debut, virtually guarantees that he will make an appearance during the game.
Cruz Azul’s coach, Ricardo Ferretti, joked about facing Messi, expressing that his absence might be beneficial for his team. However, he reminded everyone that soccer is a team sport, and a single player does not determine the outcome.
Inter Miami’s players, who have not been in the limelight like Messi, have experienced an unusual week with extensive media coverage of their training sessions.
USA international DeAndre Yedlin, who has played in the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United, praised Messi as a great teammate who quickly fit into the dressing room. Messi’s generosity and camaraderie with his new teammates have left a positive impression on the squad.
Coach Martino noticed that Messi appears happy in training and seems more relaxed, having finally won a World Cup with Argentina. He believes Messi is in a great moment of his career.
In addition to Messi, former Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba has also joined Inter Miami, reuniting with Busquets on the team. The anticipation for Messi’s debut remains high, but the focus should be on the entire team’s performance, with Cruz Azul and Inter Miami being significant institutions in their respective leagues.