After months of rumors, days of anticipation and hours spent in the pouring rain, Inter Miami fans got what they were waiting for.
Lionel Messi, the man with a compelling argument as the greatest soccer player ever, walked into DRV PNK Stadium sporting an Inter Miami T-shirt, shook hands with David Beckham and the Mas brothers and triggered a new era for Major League Soccer on Sunday.
Compared to certain other introductions in South Florida, Messi’s demeanor was muted one day after putting pen to paper, but he still said what the crowd wanted to hear. Speaking in Spanish, Messi thanked a crowd that had braved the rain and said he couldn’t wait to get started.
“I am very excited, very happy to be here, in Miami, with all of you. I am… I want to thank, obviously, Jorge [Mas], Jose [Mas], David [Beckham], and their family, for the warm welcome and affection every day, for making us feel at home so quickly, making everything easy. The truth is that it has been spectacular for us since we arrived. I’m really looking forward to starting training, starting to compete. I come with the same eagerness I’ve always had to compete, to want to compete, to want to win, to want to help and to keep growing.
“I am very happy to have chosen to come to this city with my family, to have chosen this project. And I have no doubt that we will enjoy it a lot, we’ll have a good time, and beautiful things will happen here. Thank you very much, thank you all for this day.”
Inter Miami then played a welcome video featuring names such as Stephen Curry and Miami mayor Francis Suarez. It had already brought in Messi’s longtime Barcelona teammate Sergio Busquets, whose signing was announced earlier that day.
The whole event was livestreamed on several platforms, including MLS broadcast partner Apple TV, though the actual production value of the stream didn’t quite meet the moment.
The live translation of Messi’s speech on the English stream was barely audible and the producers bafflingly didn’t show who was actually talking in the welcome video. Sunday was still a great day for MLS, but the medium through which most fans saw it was a reminder of why Messi’s arrival is so important in the first place. The league is still finding its footing in the streaming and broadcast landscape.
Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami introduction was soaked with rain and optimism. (Photo by GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images)
The man tasked with leading the league into the sporting landscape, MLS commissioner Don Garber, then appeared on the Apple TV stream. He saw Sunday as a continuation of MLS’ growth, especially through the arrival of Beckham when he signed with the LA Galaxy in 2007 and bought his slice of Inter Miami in 2014:
“The league has gone from strength to strength for so many years, really two and a half decades. David was the first one that actually said ‘I believe in what soccer in American be,’ now soccer in the U.S. and Canada. He said in 2014 at a press conference we had here ‘I believe in Miami, I believe that we’ll be able to bring some of the great players in the world to this city,’ and look at what they’ve done. This is pretty spectacular, rain aside.”
Now Messi can get started with a new club that could direly use him, as Inter Miami fell 3-0 the same day to fall to a league-worst 5-3-14. At least he already knows which grocery store to peruse.