Lionel Messi lifted the Ballon d’Or trophy high while fireworks filled the sky, marking the end of the pregame ceremony. This allowed Inter Miami to celebrate the best player in the game one more time in 2023.
Messi played for his soccer team in a friendly match against New York City FC on Friday night. The match was arranged to celebrate his eighth Ballon d’Or win,
Which he received at a fancy event in Paris last month. Messi, holding the trophy, walked to the middle of the field on a special gold carpet.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Inter Miami owners Jorge and Jose Mas were there for a short ceremony.
Messi embraced them, then lifted the trophy as the crowd cheered. He expressed, “It’s wonderful to share this moment with all of you. I’ve been here for a short time, but it feels like a long time.
“Inter Miami fans, have the best player who’s ever played the game,” said Garber. “The winner of his eighth Ballon d’Or, the guy who lifted the Leagues Cup as captain for your team.
Thank you, Leo, for believing in Major League Soccer and making your club and your league a top choice.
This marked a perfect end to Messi’s first four months with the club. Year 1 began with a celebration on the field and concluded with another one, looking forward to Year 2.
He’s the main star of this match, and we want to join him in celebrating his eighth Ballon d’Or,” said Inter Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino.
It’s an opportunity for us to compete. Even though it’s a friendly, it’s a chance for people and fans to see Leo and his teammates on the field and bid farewell to the year.
This became an extra chance for a farewell, at least on the home turf. Inter Miami’s home schedule ended over three weeks ago, and Messi didn’t play that night as he had just returned from World Cup qualifiers with Argentina.
Inter Miami was initially set to play in China, but the trip got canceled due to unforeseen circumstances. Instead, they arranged an exhibition match with NYCFC, both teams having missed the ongoing MLS playoffs.
Messi trained with the team for most of the last two weeks, joining the team right after receiving the Ballon d’Or in Paris.
“I would like to thank all the people of Miami, not just the ones here in the stadium,” Messi expressed. “The treatment for myself and my family … you’ve made me feel at home.”
In the wake of his absence from the pitch since Inter Miami’s MLS finale on October 21, Messi is poised to grace the field at least twice more in 2023.
Argentina is slated for World Cup qualifying clashes against Uruguay in Buenos Aires on November 16 and Brazil in Rio de Janeiro on November 21.
The commencement of preparations for 2024 is anticipated in January, coinciding with the possible late February kickoff of the MLS regular season.
For Inter Miami, the upcoming year promises to be frenzied, having clinched the Leagues Cup—its inaugural trophy—shortly after Messi’s enlistment with the club this summer.
The club is set to participate in the U.S. Open Cup and the CONCACAF Champions Cup alongside the 2024 MLS schedule.
Optimism radiates from Messi about the coming year. “I have no doubt… that next year will be much better,” Messi asserted. “We will persist in relishing our journey and endeavor to secure more accolades, with the hope that you continue to stand by our side.”
When questioned about Messi’s enduring motivation, Martino emphasized the caliber of competition witnessed during practice sessions, deeming it the most unequivocal response.
“If you observed those sessions, you wouldn’t need to pose the question. The answer would be glaringly apparent,” Martino elucidated.
In the realm of sports, debates about the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) are ubiquitous. Basketball contemplates Michael Jordan or LeBron James, golf deliberates between Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, and men’s tennis mulls over Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, or Novak Djokovic.
Football, while still a subject of deliberation, encounters a persuasive argument favoring Messi with eight Ballon d’Or trophies in his possession.
“I believe it’s concluded,” opined Inter Miami forward Benjamin Cremaschi, an 18-year-old who barely witnessed his second month of life when Messi scored his inaugural official goal for Barcelona in 2005.
“He’s demonstrated this for the past 18 years. I perceive him as the preeminent player globally, the paramount player in history. I don’t encounter many dissenters.
Admittedly, my perspective might be somewhat prejudiced, but from my vantage point, I’ve yet to witness anyone surpass his prowess.”
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