First on the bench, red shirt on his back, Messi had to wait before making his first appearance. Fans were trembling with impatience, demanding their "Messi! Messi!" from the 20th minute of play. The Argentine star exulted when Robert Taylor opened the scoring for the locals with a deflected shot into the goal by the post, before the break (44th).
It was later, in the 54th minute, that the former Paris Saint Germain and FC Barcelona player donned his pink jersey to enter the game under a standing ovation from the public. Sergio Busquets took advantage of the same stoppage to also make his debut with Miami.
Already wearing the captain's armband, Messi watched helplessly as Cruz Azul returned, thanks to Antuna's goal (65th).
Then the Argentine tried a lot, often successful before being decisive. Pushed in the 94th minute, Messi collects an ideal free kick... that he will send in full skylight to close this first luminous appearance.
David Beckham's franchise hadn't won a game in 11 games until then.
- Stars and fervor -
A success in the last minutes that capsized the Fort Lauderdale stadium with happiness. A joy that was already present several hours before kick-off.
Thousands of pink flags with Messi and his number ten depicted on them had been distributed in the stadium. A small gift that modestly offset the hundreds of dollars spent to attend the meeting.
Inter Miami's Argentine striker Lionel Messi celebrates his win over Cruz Azul at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, July 21, 2023 © Chandan KHANNA / AFP
The cheapest tickets available for resale Friday morning were displayed at $ 160 on the specialized site Vividseats. The most expensive exceeded 8,800 dollars, a record for this competition.
The price to pay to see the one who entered the pantheon of football, and sport in general, in his lifetime.
Proof of the enthusiasm aroused by the iconic player, world stars had made the trip to Fort Lauderdale...
NBA player LeBron James was spotted taking a selfie with club president David Beckham. Serena Williams and Kim Kardashian, front row, holding out their smartphones as the Argentine star pulled up her socks before entering the pitch.
Messi and Busquets, who entered together, discovered North American football, its intensity, its inaccuracies too.
Experience, technique, vision of the game, the two players seem able to bring a lot to the Florida club, good last in Major League Soccer (MLS) this season. Provided you are physically able to start the meetings soon.
Inter Miami's Argentine forward Lionel Messi celebrates his win over Cruz Azul at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, July 21, 2023 © Mike Ehrmann/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
"Whatever their level, whatever their status, (Leo Messi) and Sergio Busquets will need time to adapt," Beckham said: "They may surprise us, we may win every game, but we have to be patient."
The adventure continues Tuesday in this Leagues Cup for Inter Miami, who will face Atlanta, perhaps with newcomer Jordi Alba. Created in 2019, this competition brings together 29 MLS teams and 18 others from the Mexican first division. Formations divided into 15 groups of three clubs.
After two games, the first two are qualified for the sixteenth finals and then begins a knockout phase. Cruz Azul was the first winner, the defending champion is Club Leon.
© 2023 AFP