Lionel Messi, the renowned soccer superstar, recently attended a youth soccer tournament in southwest Florida to support his son. Despite his fame and talent, Messi attempted to blend in as a regular soccer dad. However, his presence automatically captivated everyone around him, including his Inter Miami teammates.
One such teammate who was starstruck by Messi’s arrival is DeAndre Yedlin. Yedlin is an accomplished player with a decorated career, having played in the Premier League, participated in two World Cups for the U.S., and been selected as a Major League Soccer All-Star. He even served as the captain for Inter Miami before Messi joined the club in July.
Yedlin expressed his awe, saying, “I mean, yeah, I was starstruck. This is a guy that I grew up watching and admiring. So, of course, whenever you come across a great — especially the greatest to ever do it — I think it’s normal to get a bit starstruck. I really was like: ‘Wow, that is Messi. He’s here.’ But when you play with him, get to know him, you realize he’s a very normal guy, very humble, cares about everybody.”
Messi’s humility and extraordinary talent make him anything but normal. This will be on full display when he is expected to secure his eighth Ballon d’Or, the prestigious award presented to the best player in the world, in Paris on Monday. This would extend his record, as no other player has won more than five of these trophies.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, who coached Messi in Barcelona, believes both Messi and Erling Haaland deserve the Ballon d’Or. He suggested dividing the award into two sections, one for Messi and one for everyone else.
This will be Messi’s 14th time finishing in the top three of the Ballon d’Or, furthering another record. He previously won the award while playing for Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain. Winning it with Inter Miami would mark the first time an MLS player receives such recognition.
Teammate Jordi Alba, who has played alongside Messi for a considerable time, also emphasized the joy of playing with him and sharing moments together. Alba joined Messi at Inter Miami, and their partnership continues to thrive.
As for Messi’s first season with Inter Miami, it achieved remarkable success in numerous aspects but fell short in one. The club secured its first trophy, the Leagues Cup Championship, with Messi leading the way. Attendance and social media presence experienced a significant boost, and Messi’s jersey became a top seller in MLS.
However, injuries and fatigue took a toll on Messi, particularly due to the demanding schedule of the Leagues Cup. A leg injury forced him to miss a considerable portion of the late-season MLS matches, and the club ultimately failed to make the playoffs.
Nonetheless, Inter Miami is already preparing for the upcoming season, scheduled to participate in exhibitions in China. In 2024, the club is expected to contend for multiple trophies, including the MLS Cup, Leagues Cup, U.S. Open Cup, and the CONCACAF Champions Cup.
Messi plans to spend the holidays in Argentina before returning for preseason training and working towards achieving the best outcomes.
Inter Miami’s roster will mostly remain intact for the upcoming season. Rumors are circulating that another prominent player, Luis Suarez, who previously played with Messi at Barcelona, may join Inter Miami. Despite being in soccer’s brightest spotlight for nearly two decades, Messi remains the biggest star.
His decision to play in MLS after winning the World Cup for Argentina in December has been a positive experience thus far. Inter Miami had an unprecedented season, and they anticipate another whirlwind in 2024.
Inter Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender described their journey as something new and extraordinary for North America, the team, and the league. The attention surrounding their progress created excitement and unlimited potential. Callender eagerly anticipates what the future holds.
This article was originally written and reported by The Associated Press. To stay updated on MLS, follow your favorite teams for game updates, news, and more.