Lionel Messi won his eighth Ballon d’Or on Friday, while Inter Miami celebrated. However, their celebration friendly match ended in a 2-1 loss to MLS rivals New York City FC.
It was a loss between two teams that were long out of the running for the MLS title, but that wasn’t the main point of the night. Messi started by thanking fans for the warm welcome he’d gotten in Florida.
Many fans yelled “Messi! Messi!” at the same time, and the DRV PNK stadium was almost full, even though the club’s MLS season ended last month.
Messi thanked everyone for coming and for the beautiful honour. He raised the prize he had won in Paris last month. “I’ve only been here a short time, but it feels like a long time.”
“I want to thank everyone in Miami, not just the people here but everyone in the city in general, for how they’ve treated my family and me during this time.
“They showed me a lot of affection, they made me feel at home.”
When the 36-year-old hero arrived at Inter Miami in July, he was greeted with cheers. In August, he led the failing team to victory in the Leagues Cup, a game with teams from the MLS and the Mexican league.
He made his first MLS regular season appearance for Miami on August 26 as a replacement in the second half. He scored a goal in Inter’s 2-0 win at New York Red Bulls, ending an 11-game losing run.
Messi was hurt late in the season and couldn’t help Miami get out of the bottom of the league and into the MLS Cup playoffs.
Still, he has inspired the US league, as shown by the fact that shirt sales, MLS season pass watching contracts, and ticket sales at all of Miami’s games have all gone up.
Late in Friday’s game, fans were shouting for him again, but he couldn’t score an equaliser. Talles Magno and Julian Fernandez scored the goals that won the game for NYCFC.
Messi’s most recent Ballon d’Or was for things he did before he moved to Major League Soccer. For example, he was named the tournament’s best player and scored seven goals while leading Argentina to win at last year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Messi, on the other hand, said he wanted to build on Miami’s Leagues Cup win next season, when they will protect their title and also play in the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions Cup.
“I had no doubt that we were going to have a good time, that we were going to enjoy ourselves and today I have even less doubts that next year is going to be much better,” he stated.