Depending on who you’re talking to, Lionel Messi is one of, if not the greatest footballer of all-time. After an impressive youth career that saw him spend three years in Barcelona’s youth academy, Messi started to climb up the club’s ranks and made his first team debut on November 16, 2003 at just 16 years old.
Over the next 18 years, Messi established himself as a Barcelona legend – having scored 672 goals and dished more than 300 assists in 778 matches with the team. He eventually left the team in 2021 to join PSG, but not before breaking a club-record 35 trophies and winning 10 La Liga titles with Barcelona.
Messi went on to score 32 goals and dished 35 assists in 75 matches with Paris Saint-Germain and has another 103 goals in 175 matches with Argentina. Between Barcelona, PSG, and Argentina, Lionel Messi has won 43 trophies in his career – tying a world record that was set by former teammate, Dani Alves.
Lionel Messi Single-Handedly Transformed Inter Miami Into a League Champion
Lionel Messi played his final game with PSG on June 1, 2023 as news of his departure went viral. Initial reports suggested a potential return to Barcelona, while other reports hinted at a big-money move to Al-Hilal of the Saudi Professional League. In a shocking turn of events, he decided to turn both down.
Instead, he signed with the Inter Miami of the MLS – a team that had just 5 wins, 14 losses, and 3 ties in the 2023 MLS regular season prior to his debut. That debut came on July 21 against Cruz Azul and he made his presence known almost immediately – scoring the game-winning goal in stoppage time.
Lionel Messi has only played in 7 MLS games since joining Inter Miami CF, but he already has 10 goals and one assist – scoring at least one goal in each game. The team is undefeated during that time (5 wins in regulation, 2 wins in penalty kicks) and they beat Nashville SC to win the 2023 Leagues Cup final.
To honor and marvel at what he has done in the MLS thus far, let’s take a quick look at each of his 10 goals over his first seven games.
1. Inter Miami vs. Cruz Azul (July 21)
On July 21, Inter Miami took to the pitch for a Leagues Cup group stage match against Cruz Azul – an MLS team based in Mexico City, Mexico. Inter Miami took a 1-0 lead 44 minutes into the game when Robert Taylor netted the first goal of the game. They maintained that lead heading into the second half.
While Lionel Messi wasn’t part of the ‘First XI’ (starting lineup), he eventually entered the game in the 54th minute when he was substituted for Benjamin Cremaschi. That’s not all – Sergio Busquets, a former teammate of Messi at Barcelona, also made his Miami debut in the 54th minute, replacing David Ruiz.
11 minutes later, Cruz Azul tied the game with a goal in the 65th minute, but Messi wasn’t about to let the game end in a tie. In the 94th minute – fourth minute of stoppage time – Messi scored his first MLS goal off a beautiful free kick that went straight into the left-side upper-90, giving Inter Miami the 2-1 victory.
2. Inter Miami vs. Atlanta United (July 25; Goal 1)
On July 25, Inter Miami took to the pitch for a Leagues Cup group stage match against Atlanta United – an MLS team based in Atlanta, Georgia. Unlike in his debut, Lionel Messi was a part of the ‘First XI’ and several stars came to witness it – including Sean “Diddy” Combs, DJ Khaled, and Camila Cabello.
It didn’t take long for Messi to assert his dominance in this one. His former Barcelona teammate, Sergio Busquets, lofted a perfect ball over the defense and right on stride with Messi – who took two dribbles before shooting it directly at the right-side post, but the ball came right back to him and he finished it.
Despite an Atlanta defender coming in hot, Messi beat him to the ball and drilled it into the back of the net to give his team an early 1-0 lead in the eighth minute. Busquets wasn’t credited with an assist, but those who were watching know that the goal never would’ve happened if it weren’t for that beautiful loft pass.
3. Inter Miami vs. Atlanta United (July 25; Goal 2)
Lionel Messi was a man on a mission in the first half of Inter Miami’s group stage match against Atlanta United. He already had himself a hard-earned goal in the 8th minute, but that wasn’t enough – he wanted more. And for those who know Messi, he wasn’t about to sit around and wait for another opportunity.
Just 14 minutes after his first goal, Lionel Messi was dribbling the ball down the pitch when he connected with Robert Taylor near the left-side end-line. Taylor quickly sent the ball back in front of the net and it found Messi’s foot quicker than a neodymium magnet. Messi had a sweet touch and netted the goal.
It was Messi’s second goal in the first 22 minutes of the match and his third MLS goal in two games. Inter Miami went on to take a 3-0 lead when Taylor scored a goal of his own in the 44th minute, but he wasn’t done. In the 53rd minute, Taylor scored his second goal of the game – Messi was credited with the assist.
4. Inter Miami vs. Orlando City (August 2; Goal 1)
On August 2, Inter Miami took to the pitch for a Leagues Cup ‘Round of 32’ match against Orlando City SC – an MLS team based in Orlando, Florida. Much like he did in the match prior, Lionel Messi wasted no time in giving his team a 1-0 lead – netting a beautiful goal in just the seventh minute of the match.
Robert Taylor was just outside the 18-yard box when he saw Messi creating space in the middle of the penalty area. Taylor lofted the ball over the defense and it stuck to Messi’s foot just outside the six-yard box. He quickly controlled the ball before drilling it into the back of the net with force and confidence.
14 minutes later, Lionel Messi was trying to control the ball when it got away from him. An Orlando City player started running after the ball, but Messi accidentally clipped him in the foot from behind – causing the Orlando City player to fall to the ground. Messi received a yellow card – his first MLS yellow card.
5. Inter Miami vs. Orlando City (August 2; Goal 2)
Lionel Messi and Inter Miami went into halftime with a 1-0 lead – Messi already had one goal and one yellow card. It didn’t take long for Miami to add to their lead with a successful penalty kick by Josef Martinez in the 51st minute – just six minutes into the second half. Things only got more interesting.
In the 64th minute, Inter Miami made a substitution that saw Jordi Alba replace Noah Allen. It was the official MLS debut of Alba – another one of Messi’s former teammates at Barcelona, who was signed by Miami on July 20th. With Alba in the game, Inter Miami had three former Barcelona stars on the pitch.
In the 72nd minute, Lionel Messi scored his second goal of the game and his fifth goal in three games since joining Miami. He began the play with a nice through ball to Robert Taylor, who lobbed the ball to Josef Martinez, followed by a lob back to Messi – who drilled it into the back of the net from close range.
6. FC Dallas vs. Inter Miami (August 6; Goal 1)
On August 6, Inter Miami took to the pitch for a Leagues Cup ‘Round of 16’ match against FC Dallas – an MLS team based out of Dallas, Texas. For the third-straight match, Lionel Messi scored within the first eight minutes of the match and gave his team an early 1-0 lead – proving there’s no point in wasting time.
While Jordi Alba didn’t record a goal or assist during his debut, he played a big role in getting his former Barcelona teammate his sixth MLS goal. Alba had the ball in the corner and sent a beautiful pass to the middle of the field right outside the penalty arc. Was there ever any doubt that Messi would finish it? No!
The 1-0 lead came just six minutes into the game and they would maintain that lead for the next 30 minutes. Unfortunately for Inter Miami, FC Dallas responded with three unanswered goals in the 37th minute, 45th minute, and 63rd minute. At this point, Miami was 30 minutes away from being knocked out.
7. FC Dallas vs. Inter Miami (August 6; Goal 2)
In the 64th minute, Benjamin Cremaschi replaced Diego Gomez and acted as the spark that helped Inter Miami get back in the game. Just one minute after entering the game, Cremaschi scored a goal and the assist came from none other than Jordi Alba – his second assist of the game. Miami was now down 2-3.
Unfortunately, FC Dallas scored a fourth goal in the 68th minute – just four minutes later – bringing Inter Miami’s deficit to 4-2. Things went silent for a little while, but FC Dallas gave Miami a free goal when Marco Farfan scored an own goal. Miami was on the verge of elimination down 4-3 in the 80th minute.
There was still time left, though, and that could only mean one thing – Messi still had an opportunity to pull off a miracle. In the 85th minute, Messi scored off a beautiful free kick from just outside the right edge of the penalty box – finding the right-side upper-90. Inter Miami went on to win during the penalty kicks.
8. Inter Miami vs. Charlotte FC (August 11)
On August 11, Inter Miami took to the pitch for a Leagues Cup quarterfinal match against Charlotte FC – an MLS team based in Charlotte, North Carolina. While Lionel Messi didn’t score in the first eight minutes (like he did in the previous three games), his team got off to an early 2-0 start to put the pressure on.
Josef Martinez opened the scoring with a successful penalty kick in the 12th minute, while Robert Taylor gave them a 2-0 lead in the 32nd minute – it was assisted by DeAndre Yedlin and Sergio Busquets. Things went quiet for a while, but an own goal by Charlotte gave Miami a 3-0 lead in the 78th minute.
Inter Miami wasn’t done. In the 86th minute, Lionel Messi got himself on the board and gave his team a 4-0 lead over Charlotte – securing their place in the Leagues Cup semifinal. Messi was hanging out in front of the goal and Leonardo Campana found him for an easy goal – Messi’s eighth in five games.
9. Philadelphia Union vs. Inter Miami (August 15)
On August 15, Inter Miami took to the pitch for a Leagues Cup semifinal match against the Philadelphia Union – an MLS team based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It didn’t take long for Miami to take a 1-0 lead, with Josef Martinez scoring a goal in the third minute of the game – assisted by Sergii Kryvtsov.
Miami kept the pressure on with another goal in the 20th minute – this one scored by Lionel Messi. He was dribbling the ball down the field when the defense started to close in on him. Showing off his range, Messi decided to shoot from about 40 yards out. It was a slow roller, but the goalie couldn’t reach it.
In the 48th minute (third minute of stoppage time before halftime), Jordi Alba scored his first goal as a member of Inter Miami – assisted by Robert Taylor. Philadelphia scored in the 73rd minute to cut their deficit to 3-1, but Lionel Messi assisted a goal by David Ruiz in the 84th minute to seal the deal 4-1.
10. Nashville SC vs. Inter Miami (August 19)
On August 19, Inter Miami took to the pitch for a Leagues Cup final match against Nashville SC. Miami had never won a trophy since joining the MLS, so this game held a lot of weight for the city. Luckily for them, Messi did what he has done numerous times since joining the team – gave them an early lead.
Messi’s goal came in the 23rd minute. He gained control of the ball just outside the penalty arc and used his crafty moves to skate around a defender before taking a beautiful shot from the edge of the penalty box. It traveled to the left-side upper-90 and the goalie had no chance at stopping it – what a beaut!
Miami maintained that 1-0 lead until Nashville SC finally answered in the 57th minute. The game stayed tied 1-1 the rest of the way and both teams headed to a penalty shootout. Miami made 10 of 11 penalty kicks, while Nashville made 9 of 11 penalty kicks. At last, Inter Miami added to their trophy shelf.
What’s Next for Lionel Messi and Inter Miami?
With his recent Leagues Cup win, Lionel Messi now has 44 trophies in his career – setting a new all-time record and becoming the most decorated footballer of all time. It was also the first-ever trophy for Inter Miami, which joined Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2020. It was a special night for everyone involved.
They’re not done, though. They still have an opportunity to win two more trophies before the 2023 season comes to an end. Inter Miami has a U.S. Open Cup semifinal match against FC Cincinnati on August 23 and they still have 12 regular season games remaining as they fight for a spot in the 2023 MLS Cup.
In order to qualify for the MLS Cup, Inter Miami will have to secure a top-nine spot in the standings. As of August 22, they’re currently in 15th place – but don’t let that scare you. If the team can continue to win the way they have since adding Lionel Messi, they very well can find a way in – it won’t come easy, though.
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