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What can Lionel Messi bring to Inter Miami?

Lionel Messi has finally been unveiled as an Inter Miami player following the Argentinian superstar's decision to swap Paris Saint-Germain for Major League Soccer in the USA this summer.

Messi's stunning move to Miami was officially confirmed over the weekend and he was introduced to an ecstatic sell-out crowd of around 20,000, who had braved the stormy weather, at the MLS club's temporary DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

MLS move after World Cup glory

Just seven months after spearheading his country's World Cup triumph in Qatar, arguably the greatest player ever is now preparing to play away from Europe for the first time in his club career.

His arrival stateside is, of course, being greeted very enthusiastically and his move has been hailed as the biggest transfer in MLS history.

The record seven-time Ballon d'Or winner may now be 36, but he proved in Qatar he is still at the top of his game and the former Barcelona star is expected to light up the MLS after reportedly turning down an even more lucrative offer from Saudi Arabia in favour of joining Miami.

Messi-mania in Miami

Understandably, his move has generated headlines across the globe and officials associated with Inter Miami and the game in the US can barely contain their excitement at Messi's transfer.

The club's co-owner David Beckham, whose own move from Real Madrid to LA Galaxy 16 years ago sparked similar scenes of jubilation in the States, hailed Messi's signing as a "dream come true", while Inter Miami's primary owner, American billionaire Jorge Mas, described Messi as "the best player ever to don boots".

MLS commissioner Don Garber said he was "overjoyed that the greatest player in the world chose Inter Miami and Major League Soccer", and he will be relying on Messi to help further raise the profile of, not only the League, but also the sport in general in the country.

Leagues Cup debut beckons

The expectation is that it won't take Messi long to regain his match fitness during training with his new club and the marquee signing should be involved straight away.

Messi could make his debut for Miami against Mexican side Cruz Azul on 21st July in their opening match of the upcoming Leagues Cup - the tournament being played over the next month that pits MLS sides against opponents from Liga MX, the top flight in Mexico.

If he does play, then Messi can be backed at 8/11 to score anytime, 12/5 to open the scoring and it is 11/1 that he marks his debut with a hat-trick.

He could also feature in their second round-robin group game against fellow MLS side and Eastern Conference rivals Atlanta United, with Miami hoping Messi will inspire them to qualify for the knockout stage and beyond.

Following the group games, the Leagues Cup round of 32 begins in early August with the competition eventually whittled down to two finalists by 19th August.

Messi, who scored an incredible 672 goals for Barcelona in his 17 years as a senior player at his boyhood club, insists he has "the same desire that I always had to compete" but, in contrast to what he was used to at Barca and PSG, he is not joining a club usually in a dominant position in the table.

Messi expected to improve Miami’s fortunes

Inter Miami currently sit bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference, having won just five of their 22 games, but that record should quickly improve with Messi now in their ranks and they are 50/1 to go on and lift the MLS Cup.

His new side are set to resume their league campaign on 21st August against Charlotte FC when Messi is set to make his MLS debut.

Following the Charlotte game, Miami take on Cincinnati in the US Open Cup on 24th August and then they are due to be back in quickfire MLS action against New York Red Bulls and Nashville before the end of August.

By then, Messi is likely to have made his mark in the States and it would be no surprise to see him start to pile up the goals and assists quickly, as he looks to add to his superb record of 715 club goals amassed throughout his glittering career so far.

However, despite the Argentine’s much-heralded arrival and the ongoing development of the professional game in the US, the quality of the MLS is still inferior to Europe’s top leagues.

Therefore, a player as gifted as Messi, who scored 32 goals in 75 games in his two-year spell with PSG, should easily sparkle.

Messi is not the only former Barcelona star now stationed in Miami, as his old team-mate Sergio Busquets has also signed for the club on a deal until 2025 and the experienced midfielder will surely also lift the Herons' fortunes in the months ahead.

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