When the most eyeballs are on them, the greatest of the greats always deliver, and that’s exactly what Lionel Messi did with an inch-perfect, game-winning free kick in his Inter Miami debut on Friday.
Messi made his debut as a 54th-minute substitute, with the likes of LeBron James, Serena Williams and Kim Kardashian, among other A-listers, in attendance at DRV PNK Stadium. Inter Miami led 1-0 when Messi came on, but 11 minutes later Cruz Azul equalized in the debut game of the newly launched Leagues Cup, featuring sides from MLS and Liga MX.
It was Messi who won the free kick as stoppage time started to slip away and a disappointing 1-1 draw looked likely, without the iconic, standout moment that the 36-year-old Argentine superstar was signed to provide. Messi stepped up with the ball 25 yards out, and he couldn’t have placed it in the back of the net any more perfectly if he walked the ball to, and tossed it over, the goal line by hand.
Messi, 36, won the World Cup with Argentina in December and the focus soon became his club future.
The Barcelona legend fell out with Paris Saint-Germain and much-rumored moves to Saudi Arabia or back to Barca did not materialize before David Beckham’s Miami came calling for the Rosario native.
Messi arrives in South Beach with a tremendous haul of statistics. He’s scored 704 club goals between Barca and PSG while chipping in 338 assists in 863 appearances.
The living legend’s also scored 103 goals with 56 assists for Argentina in 175 caps for the senior national team.
How to watch Lionel Messi in Major League Soccer, Leagues Cup
Dates: Feb. 25 – Oct. 21 (regular season)
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch MLS games: Apple TV
Lionel Messi latest: Unveiled ahead of Inter Miami debut
Messi and longtime Barcelona teammate Sergio Busquets were unveiled by Inter Miami over the weekend, and an on-pitch debut is coming soon.
Messi’s taken training with MLS basement-dwelling Miami but his Major League Soccer debut will have to wait as the Leagues Cup is up next for the Floridian outfit.
Inter Miami hosts Cruz Azul at DRV PNK Stadium on Friday, July 21.