Jul 17, 2023 - Sports

Messi formally introduced to Inter Miami at welcome party

Lionel Messi is presented his new Inter Miami jersey by the team's owners at a welcome party.

Lionel Messi is presented his new Inter Miami jersey by the team's owners. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Lionel Messi formally introduced himself to South Florida during a massive welcome party last night ahead of his expected Inter Miami debut Friday.

Driving the news: Messi, who officially signed with the MLS team over the weekend, received a standing ovation from fans who braved a lightning storm that had delayed the celebration.

  • "We're doing this Miami-style in the rain. This is holy water," said Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas.

Why it matters: The Argentine soccer legend's decision to join the MLS should continue to help soccer's popularity in the U.S. just in time for Miami and other North American cities to host the 2026 World Cup games.

What happened: Messi and former FC Barcelona teammate Sergio Busquets, who also recently signed with Inter Miami, held up their jerseys and greeted fans from midfield at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale during an unveiling of the team's new look, which will reportedly also include former Barcelona defender Jordi Alba.

Despite persistent rainfall, thousands of fans dressed in the pink of Inter Miami and Argentine soccer's albiceleste packed the stadium to see their soccer savior.

  • Fireworks burst in the sky as chants of "Messi! Messi! Messi!" rang out.
  • In his speech to the fan base, Messi said he was excited to start playing with his new team. "I'm really excited and happy to be here in Miami with you all."
  • Hours before, Argentine fans chanted newly written fight songs and tailgated with asado.
Argentina fans chant Lionel Messi-themed fight songs ahead of the player's welcome to Inter Miami.
Argentina fans chant fight songs for Lionel Messi ahead of his introduction to Inter Miami. Photo: Martin Vassolo/Axios

Flashback: The celebration was reminiscent of when the Heat rolled out their own Big Three for the first time in 2010.

Zoom in: Miami — which has a large Argentine community and rabid soccer fans — has welcomed Messi with open arms.

Reality check: Messi and friends join an Inter Miami team that's on an 11-game regular season winless streak and last in their conference.

  • And with just 13 games left in the season, local announcer Ray Hudson told the Miami Herald that it won't be easy for new coach Tata Martino to integrate the players into the team.
  • "We will not see it this season, I can almost guarantee you," he said. "You'll see improvement, you'll see the promise of magic coming through before your eyes…"

Editor's note for screen: This story was corrected to note Inter Miami is on an 11 game regular season winless streak and not an 11 game losing streak, as it has tied three matches over its last 11.

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Miami.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Miami stories

Miamipostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Miami.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more