Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender says the team will need to cope with being in the spotlight with the arrival of Lionel Messi (Megan Briggs)
Lionel Messi’s hopes of enjoying a quieter life in Florida for the final years of his career may prove to be wishful thinking with the Argentine star already lined up for a whole series of publicity events.
Messi will take part in a glitzy presentation at the club’s stadium on Sunday which has been branded “The Unveil” with the club promising musical entertainment for the expected capacity 18,000 crowd.
The event will be broadcast on Apple TV and parts of it are sure to be syndicated to other television networks.
Then the following day, Inter Miami have announced a “major press conference” with Messi expected to attend along with the club’s owners, probably including co-owner David Beckham.
Tuesday is earmarked to be Messi’s first full training session with his new team-mates but if he thought that would simply be a case of shaking hands and getting back on the field, he may be in for a surprise.
While the World Cup winner is used to practicising behind closed doors, this session will be open — for part of the session — to the media with television cameras trained on the 36-year-old’s every move.
When announcing his intention to join Miami last month, Messi gave several reasons why he had turned down other options but stated the hope for a calmer life was one of them.
“I’m also at a point where I want to get out of the spotlight a bit, to think more about my family,” he said.
On top of all those club commitments, the shy, introverted Messi is certain to be encouraged to give time for MLS’s broadcast partner, Apple TV, who are hoping that the Argentine will help boost subscriptions to their ‘MLS Season Pass’ product.
Messi arrived in Miami on Tuesday, flying in on a private jet with his family and sources said that he had visited the team’s training facility early on Wednesday.
Inter Miami’s media sessions have tended to attract around a dozen reporters but there were at least five-times that amount on Wednesday.
– ‘Big change’ for all –
Beckham also turned out for the training session, kicking a ball around while wearing a T-shirt, sunglasses and sneakers.
With many South American media outlets having Miami-based correspondents, Miami players are already facing a very different level of interest.
“It’s a big change, I don’t know what to say, but I know it’s a big change not only for the club, but also for the city. It’s very important for everyone and we have to enjoy it,” said Venezuelan striker Josef Martinez.
Goalkeeper Drake Callender said the team would have to learn to cope with the newfound attention.
“We are all professionals…we are all focused on the weekend (game) but with all of this, it’s something that is a reality for us and the best thing we can do is just focus on our training.
“We have a lot of younger kids or players in the group and for them, with media around, security around, it may be a little different,” he said.
Messi’s new team are currently bottom of the Eastern Conference with just five wins from 21 games and are ranked 28th of the 29 team across MLS. Callender says they need to change that quickly.
“I believe that (we are) better than the league position (but) the reality is that we are in last place. So that is something we have to take control of and change,” he said.
With Messi expected to be joined by Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets and other new faces and experienced Argentine coach Gerardo Martino now in charge, Callender believes that improvement is sure to come.
“Given the quality of our players and the way we want to play, I think this team has a lot of potential to go far this year,” he said.