No import in American sports history has arrived with quite the same hype as the 36-year-old.
Major League Soccer has had a number of star signings over the years, who have all ranged from underwhelming to pretty good, but none of them have quite lived up to their billing by instantly making mincemeat of the opposition quite like Messi.
David Beckham and Wayne Rooney are two figures that know all too well the difficulties of adapting to football in an entirely new continent and both struck cautious tones when asked about Messi’s immediate impact.
“He won’t find it easy here,” DC United manager Rooney said after Messi’s arrival was confirmed.
“It sounds mad, but players who come in find it’s a tough league. The travelling, the different conditions in different cities, and there’s a lot of energy and intensity on the pitch.”
Inter Miami joint-owner Beckham recognised as much. His club sit rock bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference. They’d failed to win each of their last 11 matches (eight defeats, three draws) prior to Messi’s arrival.
“Leo’s still going to need time no matter how good he is, no matter what his stature is, he and Sergio [Busquets] are going to need time to adapt no matter,” said Beckham.
“They might surprise us, we might start winning every single game, but we have to be patient.”
No patience necessary.
Messi marked his Inter Miami debut with an instantly iconic injury-time free-kick against Cruz Azul – the match-winner, of course – and hasn’t looked back, scoring in every single game of the Leagues Cup en route to winning the competition.
His 10th goal in seven games opened the scoring in the final and was arguably the best yet in Miami pink, a classic Messi strike into the top corner unleashed from outside the box.