Noah Allen isn’t hesitant to acknowledge it.
The 19-year-old defender was starstruck when he first shook hands with international superstars and his new Inter Miami CF teammates Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets.
It hasn’t entirely worn off either.
“I think I will be the rest of the season maybe,” Allen said.
Messi gifted everyone on the team with a pair of custom Beats by Dre headphones and has scored thrice and dished out two assists in his first 114 minutes with Inter Miami. Busquets has threaded passes like a hot knife through butter and provided a sense of calmness on the Miami back end.
Allen has been a part of it all, first as a substitute in Messi and Busquets’ debuts and then a starter in the second game.
But now, where he fits in the immediate picture is in question with the arrival of another international star — Jordi Alba.
Alba touched down in South Florida over the weekend and made his first appearance at training on Monday morning. He’s listed on Inter Miami’s Leagues Cup roster, meaning he could make his debut as soon as Wednesday.
Allen, a Pembroke Pines native, plays left-back. Alba also plays left-back and is regarded as one of the best to ever play the position. There’s no word yet on if Alba, 34, will be available Wednesday, but eventually only one of them can start.
For a youngster that made his Major League Soccer debut last summer and won’t turn 20 until next April, Allen’s not naive to the situation. In an interview with The South Florida Sun Sentinel, he explained how he too sees the writing on the wall now that Alba is joining Miami. That also means it most likely kicks Allen out of the starting lineup.
“He’s one of the greatest left-backs of our generation,” Allen said Monday. “He’s gonna come in and play and I just have to take what I can and learn from him the most I can and just be there to support and be ready to get my moment when the time comes.”
Alba’s arrival completes the trilogy of former FC Barcelona players to make the leap to Inter Miami. Messi paved the way, with Busquets and Alba following.
Messi made his competitive debut with Barcelona in 2004, Busquets in 2008 and Alba in 2012. Allen was a newborn in 2004, a preschooler in 2008 and an 8 year old in 2012.
It was just three and half weeks ago when Allen was one of six homegrown Inter Miami academy players on the field against D.C. United.
“I’ve watched (Alba) since I was a kid,” Allen said. “He’s such a calm player. And the way that he connects passes, and runs up and down, and he attacks 100% and defends 100%, and he has such good creativity, he’s truly one of the best left-backs in the generation.”
Alba, according to Allen, was not a full participant in Monday’s training session, but was in the facility and met his new teammates. He’ll get one more practice on Tuesday morning before possibly debuting in the round of 32 against Orlando City on Wednesday night.
While it’s still very early, Allen said that he’s also excited to learn and improve his own game by having Alba as a teammate. He’s particularly looking to make strides in his one-on-one defending, as well as his transitions between attacking and defending.
“The way that he makes runs, it’s amazing,” Allen said. “As from a player in the same position as me, he runs up and down so much and that’s something that I could also take away from him as well.”
The big question, though, is to what extent the trio of Messi, Busquets and Alba can dominate in the MLS.
So far, the sample size with Messi and Busquets is small, but quite impactful. Messi delivered the stunning free-kick winner in his debut against Cruz Azul, and then he and Busquets surgically dismantled Atlanta United a few days later.
In just the short time in between those two matches, Inter Miami’s chemistry, energy and confidence looked exponentially higher than it has in a long time.
The addition of Alba could elevate that even more.
“The Atlanta game was honestly a bit easier for us because we’re able to have space,” Allen said. “We had time on the ball, we were creating passing lanes and stuff like that.
“When we were defending it made it easier because we weren’t always on the back foot. We were always on the front foot, so when it was time to defend, we put our 100% effort into it and we kept a clean sheet.”
As of now, there is no plan yet on how Allen — at least to his knowledge — will be utilized moving forward. He has started in six MLS regular-season matches in 2023 and scored his first career goal in that same match against D.C. United. Plus, Ian Fray’s season-ending injury provides a more direct path toward playing time.
Meanwhile, Inter Miami, the last-place club in the MLS, earned the maximum six points in the Leagues Cup group stage and suddenly has its eyes on a run toward the tournament’s inaugural trophy.
Allen thinks that and an MLS playoff berth in the fall are both attainable. And based off the past two results, it’s difficult to shrug it off.
“We’re definitely playing with a little swagger,” Allen said. “I think things are getting easier when we have the best players in the world come and play …
“I’m really happy playing with them. They’re the best players in the world, so who doesn’t want to play with the best?”