FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Lionel Messi has arrived.
After a month of anxious anticipation, Inter Miami CF introduced new signing Messi to a sold-out crowd on Sunday at DRV PNK Stadium. The Argentine soccer star signed a multi-year deal with the club on Saturday, becoming MLS’s hottest signing since David Beckham joined LA Galaxy in 2007.
“I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of wonderful experiences,” Messi told the crowd. “I am very moved to be here in Miami, to be with you. I want to thank you all, on behalf of my family, for the kindness you have extended to me.”
Beckham was the first star to join MLS at the height of his career after spending most of his career playing top-flight football in Europe. Now co-owner of Inter Miami, Beckham couldn’t help but address the gravity of this moment that had been brewing for a decade.
“Ten years ago I started my journey to build a new MLS team,” Beckham said. “I said then, I dreamed of bringing the best players in the world to South Florida and the great city of Miami. Players who shared our ambition to grow the game of football in this country… We are so happy that you are all here to celebrate this incredible moment.
“So please forgive me for feeling a bit emotional tonight. It really is a dream come true to welcome Lionel Messi to Inter Miami… Welcome to La Familia.”
A two-hour weather delay stalled the event, with heavy rain hitting the stadium pitch and lightning lighting up the sky.
No one cared; no one was going to miss this. And fans were treated to a double feature as Messi’s former Barcelona team-mate Sergio Busquets was also introduced as an Inter Miami player after signing his deal to join the club on Sunday.
✨ Freedom for sonar ✨ pic.twitter.com/76PSDLcoK0
— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) July 16, 2023
Beckham was thrilled to bring the midfielder to South Florida.
“One of the most complete midfielders of his generation,” he said. “I am so proud that Sergio and his family represent our club and our colors and unite his partnership with Leo Messi.”
Even as hosts on the pitch, Melissa Ortiz and Tony Cherchi, tried to keep the show going, “Messi! Messi!” chants rang out throughout the stadium – loud enough that Ortiz had to ask for silence. Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas greeted the weather shortly before presenting his club’s new number 10.
“Tonight we’re doing this Miami style in the rain,” Mas said. “It’s holy water!”
Messi took the stage and briefly addressed the crowd before a tribute was played on video boards above the stadium. It was welcomed in the United States by a host of A-list celebrities and athletes, including Stephen Curry, Tom Brady, Gloria and Emilio Estefan and DJ Khaled.
“The World Is Yours to Take” by Tears for Fears featuring Lil Baby played through the stadium speakers. A lyric taken from the original song stood out.
“Everyone wants to rule the world.”
Of course, Inter Miami are in last place in MLS this season. Everyone might want to rule the world, but that night Mas, Beckham and more than 20,000 fans felt like they could.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.