Messi Seals Winning Debut With Stunning Goal

Global star touches off Florida celebration in 94th minute
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 22, 2023 11:40 AM CDT
Messi Wins MLS Debut With Spectacular Goal
Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi (10) celebrates with the team after scoring.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Some people paid hundreds and even thousands of dollars to see Lionel Messi's debut for Inter Miami—and to be able to say they were there. The team's owners committed well over $100 million to have moments like this. So far, it looks like money well spent. Messi capped opening night with his new club by delivering the unforgettable. His left foot sent a free kick into the upper left corner of the net in the 94th minute Friday night, giving Inter Miami a 2-1 win over Mexican club Cruz Azul in a Leagues Cup match. "What I saw was the goal," Messi said after the game, the AP reports. "I saw the goal. I knew that I had to score."

He makes it sound easier than it is. The game's greatest active player—a seven-time Ballon d'Or winner and a World Cup champion—sent the ball over a wall of four Cruz Azul defenders for the winning goal, unquestionably the greatest moment in Inter Miami's brief history. Fireworks shot into the night sky, and play resumed for roughly a minute before the referee's whistle blew. "It's a movie that we have seen before," Inter Miami coach Tata Martino said. Messi was a showman throughout his debut for his Major League Soccer club—waving at fans while he was seated on the bench, while he was warming up, and while he was actually playing.

And if that wasn't enough, he saved his best moment for the end, after checking in about eight minutes into the second half. He watched the ball sail into the net, something he's done about 800 times before for club and country, then sprinted to the right corner of the field and leaped into the arms of teammates. The team's owners—David Beckham, Jorge Mas, and Jose Mas—were waiting as he left the pitch. Some Cruz Azul players stood in silence and just watched. Cruz Azul had tied the game shortly after Messi checked in and had plenty of chances to take a late lead. But the final act belonged to Messi. "It's common for him, you know," Martino said. "It looks absolutely normal, but it's not." MLS posted video of the goal here.

(More Lionel Messi stories.)

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