Lucas Leiva hopes his former Liverpool and Gremio team-mate Luis Suarez will resist the urge to follow Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba to Inter Miami.

Liverpool and Barcelona great Suarez joined Gremio in January, having helped his boyhood club Nacional to the Uruguayan Primera Division title on his return to South America last year.

Suarez has scored four goals in 12 appearances in the Brazilian top flight this campaign, but his future is in doubt amid reports he is Miami's next big-name target. 

Miami have already signed Suarez's former Barca team-mates Messi, Busquets and Alba, and Sunday brought confirmation they had traded with the San Jose Earthquakes to gain another international registration slot.

That move has heightened speculation regarding a move for Suarez, and while Lucas understands the draw of MLS, he hopes Gremio can keep the striker.

Asked about Suarez's future, Lucas – who retired in March after being diagnosed with a heart issue – said: "He made a fantastic impact here in Brazil at Gremio. 

"I think made the right move. Luis is a world-class player, we don't need to speak about his qualities and what he's doing here in Brazil. 

"He's been linked, but I just hope he can stay at Gremio because it's my club and he's my neighbour here!

"I hope he stays a bit longer but MLS is getting attention from every player and from the fans. It's normal that he will be linked with big teams like Inter Miami."

After Messi marked his Miami debut with a dramatic free-kick winner against Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup, there has arguably never been a more compelling time to follow MLS.

Lucas is among those excited by the league's potential, adding: "MLS is growing every year, people are watching more MLS. If you look back maybe 10 years, nobody would have expected that. 

"Americans know how to do these things, so well done to them. Messi going there will just attract a lot of fans and people who will be following the league, so it's great.

"It's great because football should be everywhere in the world because it is a fantastic sport that people love to watch. 

"We can see him in another league, not in Europe. In America, it's a great thing for the fans that love football. It's a league that is improving and is growing and getting better every season."

Commissioner Don Garber says Major League Soccer is on a “rocket ship” and believes Lionel Messi’s move to Inter Miami will take the competition to new heights.

After Pele’s move to New York Cosmos in 1975, MLS kicking off in 1996 and David Beckham’s 2007 switch to the LA Galaxy, this summer saw another seismic moment in North American football.

Global star Messi’s move to Miami just seven months after lifting the World Cup with Argentina in Qatar sent ripples across the footballing world.

The 36-year-old’s last-gasp free-kick winner on his debut against Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup on Friday only increased attention on a move that Garber is thrilled about.

“MLS has been on this sort of rocket ship for a while,” said the league’s commissioner since 1999.

“Every day that you think they don’t maybe there’s a quiet period and you can settle in, something else happens that gives you even more momentum, more energy and more sort of optimism about where things are going.

“I think the time is going to come where these great things become expected, special moments are going to be expected and it’s not going to be ‘boy, is this the most special time in the history of the league?’”

Garber takes great pride in the fact “the best player in the history of the game made MLS his league of choice” when he could have gone anywhere.

The commissioner says the Argentinian’s arrival underlines the league’s “unending ambition”, perhaps meaning that one day the best players on the planet will move to North America at 26 rather than 36.

“I think you need to start with getting the best of all time choose us now,” Garber said when that potential change was put to him.

“What will that look like in the years to come and perhaps it will because I think the perception of Major League Soccer is going to change dramatically over the next number of years.

“I think our own ambition is going to change as we all see how all of this plays out.

“But I think because there are a handful of really big names who come at the end of their career, everyone has this label that they put on.

“I mean, David Beckham was 31. He went to Milan and PSG after.

“Yet nobody was saying to Zlatan when he left LA and then he played for Milan for two years and was leading scorer for a while that AC Milan is a retirement club.

“So, I think that’s what all you international pundits like to say but we actually feel really good about the dynamic of our player rosters.

“This concept of a designated player – someone who is outside the (wage) cap who is internationally renowned – that you do need someone who has a legacy of popularity.”

The designated player rule was brought in when Beckham arrived in MLS, with his unique deal allowing him the option to purchase an expansion club at a discounted price.

That team was Miami and the England great looked emotional when Messi made his debut 16 years to the day after he stepped out for his Galaxy bow.

“It fulfilled a dream that he had to really make an impact and follow up on his commitment from the earliest press conference in 2014,” Garber said of the Inter co-owner.

“David stood up there and said ‘I’m going to bring the best players in the world here to Miami – this is a city I love, it’s a team that I’m going to build, I’m going to make it great and I love the league’.

“It’s just not often that things align, and you sort of deliver on the things you say you’re going to deliver. I think that’s cool.

“David is a special guy. People don’t understand how smart David Beckham is, how thoughtful he is and how hard working he is.

“Obviously, you know that he’s very accessible and he’s very humble, but he had a laser focus from the very beginning when he walked off the field: ‘this is what I want to do and this is what it’s going to look like’.

“And it isn’t often where it all aligns and I was emotional with him when I saw him on Sunday night (at Messi’s unveiling).

“Very happy for him and really proud of him. It’s cool.”

Kylian Mbappe must head to either LaLiga or the Premier League if he wishes to compete at the top level, believes ex-Barcelona forward Hristo Stoichkov.

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar is the subject of another visible public struggle over his future with the Ligue 1 champions amid a contract stand-off.

Having turned down joining Real Madrid last year in favour of a new two-year deal at Parc des Princes, the World Cup-winning forward is now refusing to sign an extension.

That has led to the 24-year-old being dropped for his side's pre-season tour of Asia, and Stoichkov believes Mbappe must force the move abroad if he is to truly challenge himself.

"He is a great player," he told Stats Perform. "We have spoken off camera and he has told me that his greater dream is to win the Ballon d'Or. It is difficult to reach his level and even more so to stay at that level.

"Perhaps PSG opted for him, for [Lionel] Messi, for Neymar, for Sergio Ramos and for [Gianluigi] Donnarumma to have a competitive team and be able to win the Champions League, but it couldn't be.

"If Mbappe wants to compete big, he has to go to the Spanish league or the Premier [League]. In England, there are teams that can sign him, [like] Manchester City, Liverpool or Arsenal.

"But he has to choose the path where he feels most comfortable because it won't be easy. He will have a lot more pressure and with the press on him.

"Kylian is a great guy and very humble. Some say that he is arrogant, but he is not. He is very well off, and he knows very well what he wants to do.

"Hopefully sooner or later Kylian will have the opportunity to lift the Ballon d'Or because he deserves it."

Following a decade-and-a-half dominated by the powers of Mbappe's former team-mate Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the illustrious duo's departure from Europe has effectively ended a sporting era.

Stoichkov believes Mbappe sits near the summit of a new group of players looking to be considered the best in the world, predicting a great rivalry with Erling Haaland and Vinicius Junior.

"Now begins another era with big names, as in mine there was Roberto Baggio, [Michael] Laudrup, me, Michel, [Emilio] Butragueno, [Jurgen] Klinsmann or [Lothar] Matthaus, many great players.

"Then this time came with two phenomena like Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo where the two always fought. Now comes another with a litter of fantastic players.

"Haaland, Mbappe, Vinicius, Pedri, Gavi, other players who can get close. In the coming years, we will see a great rivalry between Haaland, Mbappe and Vinicius who are the strikers who make the big difference."

From considering his future on non-league Lincoln Moorlands Railway’s bench to Lionel Messi celebrating his goal, Inter Miami midfielder Robert Taylor’s story is something else.

The eyes of the footballing world were focused on DRV PNK Stadium on Friday evening as the Argentinian magician began his new chapter Stateside.

Messi’s Miami debut has been years in the making and proved worth the wait as he came off the bench to score a stunning free-kick winner against Cruz Azul in stoppage time.

The 2-1 League Cup victory was a dream debut for the 36-year-old and a surreal moment for new team-mates like Taylor, who also played alongside Sergio Busquets for the first time.

“It’s amazing, it’s great, of course I’m excited,” Taylor said.

“He’s just come in and brought a lot of energy to the team. His play means he makes the right decisions all of the time in training and in the games which is why it’s so good.

“It’s a great feeling. The way to win it as well. To witness that free-kick and the quality he brings to the team, it’s unbelievable.”

The night was particularly special for Taylor, who said it was “pretty sick” to know Messi celebrated his thumping opener off a post.

It is just the latest chapter in a scarcely believable rise for the Finland international, who played for top clubs in his homeland, Sweden and Norway after struggling to make an impact in England.

The 28-year-old spent periods with Nottingham Forest, Barnet and Lincoln, from where he was farmed out on frustrating, fruitless loans to Boston Town and Lincoln Moorlands Railway.

“If someone told me a few years ago when I sitting on the bench for Lincoln Moorlands that I’m going to play with Busquets and Messi I would have just laughed in their face,” Taylor said with a grin.

“I was sitting on the bench, I wasn’t able to get any minutes in non-league and the coach told me I’m not strong enough or basically good enough. I was just sitting on the bench watching.


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“It tested me when I was younger. I was calling my parents back home in Finland and saying maybe I want to look for something, other options.”

Taylor’s father Paul is an English former footballer who played for KuPS in Finland, where he still lives and he stayed up to watch the madness unfold out in Fort Lauderdale.

It is a night that will live long in the memory but not one that Miami will be basking in the afterglow of for long given they are looking to bounce back from a poor Major League Soccer season.

“Of course it’s an unbelievable feeling for everyone in the team but eventually we’ll have to get used to it and not get too emotional around it, we just have to focus on the game,” Taylor added.

“I think everyone needs to enjoy the win but now we need to focus on the fact we’ve got Atlanta next.”

John Barnes is not convinced Lionel Messi's arrival will help propel MLS into being one of the biggest sporting competitions in the United States.

Messi has joined Inter Miami, with the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner snubbing a move to Saudi Arabia in order to head to MLS.

The 36-year-old, who has been joined in Florida by Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, is set to make his Miami debut in the Leagues Cup against Cruz Azul on Friday, and the hype around his arrival has been understandably huge.

Yet former Liverpool star Barnes is unsure whether Messi is enough to make football as popular as basketball or American football in the USA.

Barnes referenced global superstars who went to play in the USA in the 1970s as an example of football being unable to bridge the gap.

He said to Stats Perform: "Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Johann Cruyff went to America in the 1970s, three of the best players in the world and what was the seismic shift then?

"So the fact that we've got some 35 and 36-year-olds going now, what difference is there? There's nothing new. In life, in football, there's nothing new. 

"People forget that this happened before and, of course, the shift in football isn't like in Saudi Arabia, it's not about getting two or three superstars.

"It's about developing the other players and having other players going there, not just paying lots of money for two or three superstars.

"Yes, you can market him in whichever way you want. But until our football, overtakes basketball, American football and baseball, nothing will really change in America.

"So I can't see that really impacting over there."

Gary McAllister, another ex-Liverpool player, did not wholly echo Barnes' sentiment, though.

Indeed, McAllister believes Messi's move to MLS is comparable to that of David Beckham, who joined LA Galaxy from Real Madrid in 2007.

"I think with the pictures I've seen so far on his arrival, I think it's similar to when David Beckham went to MLS as well," McAllister said.

"That brought so much publicity to the sport in that country and it has really grown, I think looking at the way with the diversity over there as well."

McAllister acknowledges football still has a way to go to catch up to the NFL or NBA.

He added: "It's competing against sports that have been there for a very long time and are very much established. But I think he's still a player who has got plenty to give, and knowing where he's playing as well, there's a big Hispanic influence in the game in the US, so I think he'll bring fans to the stadiums.

"When you look at the attendances right across the board in the U.S. and MLS it's definitely on the up. And to capture someone like Messi is a big coup for MLS and Miami as well."

Lionel Messi began his Inter Miami career with a bang as the Argentinian magician ended his debut with a stunning free-kick winner against Cruz Azul deep in stoppage time.

Seven months on from lifting the World Cup, the eyes of the footballing world were trained on Florida as the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner made his eagerly anticipated first appearance.

Messi’s Miami debut has been years in the making and proved well worth the wait.

After Robert Taylor’s excellent opener was cancelled out by Uriel Antuna, the 36-year-old struck at the death to send DRV PNK Stadium delirious and seal an unforgettable 2-1 Leagues Cup win.

It was the dream end to an evening that attracted fans of all ages in ‘Messi 10’ shirts, with stars like LeBron James, Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian and, of course, David Beckham among those in the sold-out, expectant crowd.

The proud Miami co-owner watched on from a box next to the dugout, where the early exchanges made for uncomfortable viewing as Miami looked every bit the Eastern Conference’s bottom side.

Inter rode out that early storm and took the lead just before the break as Taylor’s exquisite low strike went in off the post to Messi’s delight.

The forward was cheered throughout and received a rapturous reception when brought on in the 54th minute, taking the armband as Sergio Busquets also came on for his debut.

Jordi Alba has also signed up to join their former Barcelona boss Tata Martino in Miami, but there remains work to do and that was clear as Cruz Azul deservedly levelled through Antuna.

The Mexicans could easily have won it as the clock wound down, but this was Messi’s night.

The 36-year-old won a free-kick deep in stoppage time and there was an air of inevitability before he sent the resulting set piece into the top left-hand corner as fireworks filled the air.

This was a huge moment for Major League Soccer and momentous night for North American football, 48 years on from Pele’s New York Cosmos bow and 16 years to the day since Beckham made his LA Galaxy debut.

Messi’s name was chanted by excited fans through a match that the hosts began in ragged fashion as Cruz Azul toyed with the hosts. Carlos Rotondi sent an early effort off the post during that early barrage.

Miami offered precious little in return but – following a break to deal with Ian Fray’s nasty-looking injury – a moment of magic lit up the game.

Robbie Robinson’s diagonal pass found Taylor high and wide on the left, with the Finland international cutting inside, making space and slamming a low right-footed shot in off the far post.

Messi was on his feet celebrating and soon gearing to come on, with the big moment eventually arriving in the 54th minute.

Benjamin Cremaschi made way as the Argentina skipper jogged on to a huge roar and took the captain’s armband. Former Barca team-mate Busquets and Josef Martinez joined him as part of an exciting triple substitutions.

There was an electric atmosphere whenever Messi touched the ball but the Mexican visitors were still making opportunities and drew level in the 65th minute.

Antuna collected the ball in a dangerous and Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender was unable to deal with his drilled strike.

Messi showed flashes of quality, skill and poise as play swung from end to end with both sides seeking a winner.

Ignacio Rivero was denied Callender and there were a few hairy moments as this helter-skelter clash continued, with Messi threaded through by Busquets only to see a shot blocked.

Martinez looked to have won it but Messi had strayed well offside before passing it and at the other end Christian Tabo was brilliantly stopped by Callender.

Play was set to end in a penalty shoot-out but Messi had other ideas.

Fouled by Carlos Salcedo, it set up the chance for an unforgettable finish and the debutant delivered a thrilling final blow.

Lionel Messi showed "he doesn't care about money" by turning down a hugely lucrative offer from Al Hilal to sign for Inter Miami, according to Hristo Stoichkov.

Messi confirmed his intention to join Miami in June, after it was announced he would be leaving Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent.

The 36-year-old was officially unveiled as a Miami player on Sunday, and trained with his new team-mates – including Sergio Busquets – for the first time on Tuesday.

Al Hilal, one of the four Saudi Arabian clubs bankrolled by the Gulf state's Public Investment Fund (PIF), wanted to sign Messi, but former Barcelona star Stoichkov thinks the Argentine proved his priority is football, not cash.

"We didn't play for money, we played for love," Stoichkov, who was one of Barca's greatest players in the 1990s, told Stats Perform.

"This shows greatness. It didn't matter to me to know my salary or the bonuses, for me it was more important to play and that people value me.

"The agents take care of the other things. Messi comes to compete and play and he doesn't care about money because he loves football."

Messi confirmed he could have returned to Barcelona, though ultimately decided against the move as the Catalan giants continue to tussle with financial difficulties.

Stoichkov, who played in MLS in the early 2000s, was not sad to see Messi turn down his former club, with the Blaugrana legend suggesting a deal was never feasible.

"I knew that he was not going to return because of the way and the impact of what happened when he left Barcelona," he said.

"He wanted to stay at all costs to finish his career at Barcelona, but he couldn't.

"I didn't believe it, even though I had the opportunity to talk with him, with his father and his brothers. I, as a former Barcelona player and partner, have always liked having the best players and Messi did not deserve that exit [in 2021].

"Many people criticise him because he did not want to return, but they do not think about how he left. 

"Messi has done something that few people would do, say that he was not going to return so that his team-mates do not suffer. This shows his greatness, because he could return but surely the president was going to have to lower the salaries of the players and cut other costs for this to happen.

"Messi never wanted a team-mate to experience those things. The claims that he did not want to return are not true."

Hristo Stoichkov is reluctant to compare Lionel Messi's arrival in MLS with that of David Beckham, as he hailed the Argentine's "spectacular" impending impact.

Messi was officially unveiled as a new Inter Miami player on Sunday, having confirmed his intention to join the MLS side as a free agent in June, following his departure from Paris Saint-Germain.

He will be joined by ex-Barcelona team-mate Sergio Busquets, while Jordi Alba could yet follow the duo to Florida.

Miami are part-owned by Beckham, who himself made the switch from Europe to MLS back in 2003, when he joined LA Galaxy from Real Madrid.

Former Barcelona star Stoichkov, who also spent time in MLS with Chicago Fire and D.C. United, does not believe the two transfers can be compared, however.

He told Stats Perform: "They cannot be compared. I never liked doing it, because those are different times.

"Since 1996, when players began to arrive [in MLS], like Marco Etcheverry, Carlos Valderrama, Lothar Matthaus, later Jorge Campos, Cuauhtemoc Blanco and many Mexicans like Pavel Pardo.

"Then came [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, David Villa and David Beckham.

"But they are all different, I don't like to compare because each one lived their moment.

"It was incredible that despite the rain there were 25 thousand people waiting to see that moment, the arrival of Leo Messi and Sergio Busquets and [it is incredible] that we are going to see them playing in Florida."

Stoichkov is sure Messi will have a huge impact in MLS.

"It's a big thing," he added. "Since I played in MLS, it has always grown and moved forward.

"Don Garber has done an excellent job since 1999 when he became the commissioner of MLS and he continues to give everything to this great league.

"I remember when I was unveiled in 2000, with Matthaus, and it was amazing that we came from Europe and many years later players continue to arrive.

"Before it had been [Johan] Cruyff, [Franz] Beckenbauer, George Best, Pele and from there MLS began to grow."

While Miami are struggling in MLS this season, the city itself has enjoyed a fine year from a sporting perspective, with the Miami Heat making the NBA Finals and the Florida Panthers reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.

"Before, Miami was a tourist city and everyone wanted to come and see it, but that [sporting recognition] is more the case now," Stoichkov continued.

"I believe that with the arrival of Messi, Busquets, Jordi Alba and other important players, this city will be much more recognised around the world.

"This is a path that has been thought through a lot and I am very grateful for the efforts of Beckham and [Miami managing owner] Jorge Mas, who have promoted this project for Inter Miami.

"Many people who have come on vacation will now return to see if they can find Messi in a restaurant, in a supermarket or having a coffee.

"I have known Leo for a long time, since he was 12 or 13 years old and I was at Barcelona, and nothing has changed.

"He continues to be humble, affectionate and has returned that affection to children by taking photos and signing autographs. This adds a lot to MLS and Inter Miami.

"The impact will be spectacular, just by seeing that the tickets for the games where Messi will play are already sold out. This is because a legend has come, someone who has won everything in his sports career.

"Despite all this, the most important thing is his humility."

Lionel Messi has been introduced to Inter Miami’s fans during a special event hosted at the MLS club’s DRV Pink Stadium.

During the ceremony, which was dubbed The Unveil and broadcast live, the 36-year-old Argentina superstar greeted Inter Miami owner David Beckham with a hug before receiving his pink No 10 jersey.

Messi told the crowd: “I want to thank all the people of Miami for their welcome and love since I arrived in this city.

“The truth is that I’m very excited and very happy to be here in Miami and to be with you.

“I can’t wait to start training and competing. I’m here with the desire I’ve always had to compete, to want to win, and to help the club continue to grow.”

The stadium was practically full, despite the event being delayed by poor weather.

Beckham said during the broadcast that it made for a “typical Miami welcome for one of the greatest players to ever have played the game”.

He added: “The fact that we have our fans in here, celebrating this moment… this is what we have created and we’re very proud of that.”

Joining Messi onstage was former Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets, whose arrival at Inter Miami was officially announced earlier on Sunday.

Busquets, 35, who had spent his entire playing career at the Nou Camp, left Barca at the end of the season and will be reunited with former team-mate Messi, whose own move to Miami was confirmed 24 hours earlier.

Speaking during The Unveil event, Inter Miami’s primary owner Jorge Mas called Messi “the best player to ever don boots”.

He said: “When David and I first met and we dreamt of what Inter Miami represents, it started off with the freedom to dream.

“And we dreamed of not only bringing elite players and the best players but the best player to ever don boots — and his name is Lionel Andres Messi.”

Messi revealed last month he had decided to join the Florida side as his contract with Paris St Germain came to an end.

With the deal now officially done, Messi is in line to make his debut for his new employers on Friday against Mexico’s Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup.

Seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi arrives after a season in which he helped his country to World Cup glory in Qatar, as well as PSG to the Ligue 1 title, as in his first campaign with them in 2021-22.

That adds to an already huge trophy haul on his CV that features four Champions League successes from his years with Barcelona, for whom he scored a staggering total of 672 goals.

Joining Miami sees Messi – who has also netted more than 100 international goals – reunite with boss Gerardo Martino, who he previously worked under with Barca and Argentina.

Martino was appointed in June after the club sacked Beckham’s ex-Manchester United team-mate Phil Neville.

Inter Miami have signed midfielder Sergio Busquets following his departure from Barcelona.

Busquets, 35, who had spent his entire playing career at the Nou Camp, left Barca at the end of the season and will be reunited with former team-mate Lionel Messi, whose move to Miami was confirmed 24 hours earlier.

Miami said in a statement: “Inter Miami CF announced (on Sunday) that it has signed legendary Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets to a contract running through the 2025 Major League Soccer (MLS) season.

“The one-time World Cup champion, nine-time LaLiga winner and former FC Barcelona captain, considered to be one of the greatest midfielders of all time, will occupy a Designated Player slot and is expected to join the team in the coming days.”

Busquets was a member of Spain’s team which won the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championships in 2012 and over 15 seasons with Barca made 721 appearances in all competitions, placing him third on the club’s all-time list.

He said: “This is a special and exciting opportunity that I’m very excited to take. I’m looking forward to this next step in my career with Inter Miami.

“I was impressed by the club when I came with Barcelona last year and now I’m happy and ready to represent the club myself. I can’t wait to help bring the success that this ambitious club strives for.”

Bradley Wright-Phillips believes football in North America can become “unstoppable” on the back of Lionel Messi’s move to Inter Miami and the 2026 World Cup.

It is a decade since the former Manchester City and Southampton striker swapped English football for Major League Soccer to join New York Red Bulls.

Wright-Phillips last year retired in sixth on the MLS all-time goals list having enjoyed a ringside seat to the sport’s growth in North America and says the best is yet to come.

Having signed an eye-catching broadcasting deal with Apple in 2022, further developments will be fuelled by Messi’s move to Miami and the World Cup being hosted in the USA, Canada and Mexico in three years’ time.

“My first reaction to Messi coming out was I just couldn’t believe it,” Wright-Phillips told the PA news agency.

“Honestly, even now until I see him run out on an MLS pitch, I can’t really fathom what it’s going to be. It’s hard to even picture that. Even now it doesn’t seem real to me. It’s Messi!

“Unbelievable time. I feel like I retired at the perfect time, just to be involved in what’s going on.

“Messi obviously, Apple taking over and then you’ve got the World Cup coming in ‘26. What more can you ask for?”

Put to Wright-Phillips that the sport in North America seems to be going from strength to strength, he said: “Yeah, it does. The potential and the ceiling is higher than ever.


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“If it’s done right, it can be unstoppable – best league and country in the world for football, right? Wouldn’t you say so?”

MLS is certainly on an exciting trajectory and Messi’s arrival will spark unparalleled interest in the competition.

“The league is not only getting the best player in the world,” says Wright-Phillips, who played for LAFC and Columbus Crew as well as the Red Bulls.

“If you just think about the average fan that doesn’t watch MLS, but now because Messi’s here they’re going to watch MLS.

“They now get see a Carles Gil, a Hany Mukhtar, young players like Noel Buck – these are players that we know are good.


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“But now you’re watching because you want to see Messi and the average fan gets to see that player or they get to see the atmosphere in St Louis or Austin.

“That’s what’s exciting about it. It’s not just that we’re going to see Messi play, it’s what Messi exposes globally.”

As well as Messi’s macro impact, Miami will be desperate for the Argentina star to improve fortunes at DRV PNK Stadium.

The David Beckham co-owned team languish bottom of the Eastern Conference thanks to a difficult campaign that led to Phil Neville’s recent sacking.

Ex-Barcelona boss Tata Martino has come in, while Messi’s former Nou Camp team-mates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba are expected to join him in Florida.

“That tells me that they don’t just want Messi to come here and lose games,” Wright-Phillips added.

“The Inter Miami team isn’t doing very well this season, they’ve suffered a lot of injuries, they’ve had a change in the manager.

“There’s a lot of things they have to do but if you bring a Busquets, a Jordi Alba, you’re giving yourself, you’re giving Messi a chance to succeed.”

Former Barcelona and Argentina manager Gerardo Martino has been appointed as the new head coach of Inter Miami.

The 60-year-old Argentinian arrives at the Major League Soccer outfit co-owned by David Beckham after they sacked the latter’s ex-Manchester United team-mate Phil Neville earlier this month.

It will reunite Martino with his compatriot Lionel Messi, with the World Cup winner to join the Florida side after leaving Paris St Germain at the end of his contract.

Martino, who coached Messi with Barcelona and Argentina, said in a club statement: “I’m very excited to join a big club like Inter Miami and I know together we can accomplish many great things.

“The club has the necessary infrastructure to be a major competitor in the region and I believe that with everyone’s hard work and commitment we can get there.”

Beckham said: “’Tata’ is a highly respected figure in our sport whose track record speaks for itself.

“We are confident that his achievements in the game and experience as a head coach will inspire our team and excite our fans and look forward to seeing the impact he will have on and off the field.”

Martino has been a Copa America runner-up twice with Argentina and once with Paraguay, and also overseen Mexico winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Lionel Messi chose to join Inter Miami in part due to the desire for a quieter life.

That is the view of former Manchester City and Brazil midfielder Elano, who believes Messi made a "personal" not "professional" choice by electing to move to MLS.

Messi confirmed last week that he had decided to leave Europe for the United States, where he will join Miami, who are co-owned by David Beckham.

He is departing Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent after two years in the French capital. Barcelona wanted to re-sign the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner, but Messi did not wish to wait for his former club to put together a package that might have resulted in other players having to be sold.

Asked by Stats Perform what he thought of Messi's impending MLS switch, Elano said: "Well, I'm not Messi's friend, I don't know him. It's an assumption from a distance.

"It seems more like a family matter to me. The guy wants to play football but wants to have a quieter life. To be closer to his kids.

"I'm not saying he doesn't want to be under pressure, because he is Messi and he will never stop being under pressure wherever he is. Because he will always be Messi, one of the greatest players of all time.

"I think it's a personal choice, a family choice, to go to a wonderful place and be able to live there with your family. To have a life project. I don't condemn it.

"He has always done well for football where he has been and it will be no different in the United States. He will do well for his club and for the league. I think it was a more personal choice than a professional one."

Messi is joining a Miami team that are sat bottom of the Eastern Conference. The Herons parted company with Phil Neville earlier in June.

Count D.C. United head coach Wayne Rooney among the many who are excited about Lionel Messi coming to Major League Soccer.

After Messi announced on Wednesday that he would be joining Inter Miami CF after his exit from Paris Saint-Germain, Rooney said the move is a major win for MLS.

"I think it's great, to bring Messi into the league," Rooney said on Thursday. "We've all seen, over the years, the impact of (Inter Miami co-owner) David Beckham coming in, (former Los Angeles Galaxy striker) Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) coming in.

"Different players from overseas. To get Messi in the league, arguably the greatest player of all time, and still – he’s a little bit older – but not long ago he won the World Cup almost single handed.

"It's going to be great for the league, for Miami."

Messi, 35, is expected to make his MLS debut sometime in July, and D.C. hosts Inter Miami on July 8.

"It'd be nice if we were his first opponents for D.C. fans to see him up close and for us to challenge ourselves against him," Rooney said.

"One thing I will say – it’s not going to be easy for him. The league's a difficult league and I don't think he's going to come over here and absolutely tear it up immediately.

"He'll have to adapt because it's a bit different, it won't be an easy ride for him."

Messi dragged Argentina to their first World Cup success since 1986 in Qatar last year, and the Barcelona great has won the Ballon d'Or trophy a record seven times.

"He's the best. Simple as that," Rooney said. "In my view he's the best player to ever play the game. That's how he's different.

"The fanbase around him will be huge, commercially, for the league I'm sure it'll be huge as well. It's massive for MLS. With Messi coming here – I know MLS has always brought players in – but I think it'll do that again, and it shows MLS can compete.

"It shows it’s a league where people want to come and want to play and it's a huge first step."

Lionel Messi's impending transfer to Inter Miami will be a great tool to help MLS grow, says Michael Dawson.

Messi confirmed on Wednesday that he will join Miami after leaving Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent.

Barcelona wanted to re-sign the 35-year-old, but could not make the finances work, with Messi claiming he did not want a potential return to his old club to result in other players having to cut their salaries or be sold.

Now, a new venture in the United Stats awaits, and former Tottenham defender Dawson thinks it will be a huge positive for the growth of the sport in the United States.

Speaking to Stats Perform at an exclusive launch event for Club and Nike Members held at Alexandra Palace, Dawson said: "I always look back to the MLS when David Beckham went [in 2007 to LA Galaxy] and I always believe he was the start of the MLS improving and growing.

"You look at Cristiano Ronaldo going to Saudi [Arabia] and playing over there, it gives people a different interest.

"Messi [and Ronaldo], they are icons of football, the best players of my generation. So if you attract that to your country, to your league, it's only going to bring people watching it.

"I say the Premier League is the best league in the world. I've never played in a different country. Maybe that's something I would have maybe liked if the opportunity to come along.

"But with these kinds of players going over there, it will always attract interest from the supporters because as a fan, you follow Messi, you follow Ronaldo, and that's why the owners of these football clubs spend all the money to go and get them because they try and enhance their brand, their football team and their league."

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