‘It’s crazy, amazing’: Haiti bring hope with World Cup debut

Miami: Lionel Messi should make his debut for Inter Miami against Mexican club Cruz Azul on Friday but the seven-time Ballon d̵7;Or winner could be restricted to a role off the bench.

The Argentine arrived in South Florida last week to a wave of excitement and was presented to fans at a special stadium event on Sunday.

But since the initial hype, when club owner George Maas described him as “America’s No. 10” and promised the move would “change the soccer landscape” in the United States, there has been a marked change in tone.

Messi has only started training in earnest this week after spending time with his family over the holidays and the opening game of the new League Cup – which pits MLS and Liga MX teams together in a tournament format – could be too soon for the World Cup champion.

Co-owner David Beckham said on Tuesday Messi would play “some part of the game” and Messi’s compatriot and former Barcelona coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino suggested he could start on the bench.

In a pre-match press conference, moved to Fort Lauderdale’s downtown Performing Arts Center due to heavy media interest, Martino said they would make a decision on how to use Messi after training on Friday.

“It’s very difficult for people not to have expectations,” Martino said, “but it may take some time.”

Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets, Messi’s former teammate during his glory days with Barcelona, ​​certainly doesn’t feel ready for a full game just yet, which will also be his first.

“I needed time to adapt. It will be practically impossible for me to play for 90 minutes tomorrow,” he said.

The fact that fans are paying around $250 for a ticket that has long been billed to be Messi’s debut means he will almost certainly enter the field at some stage.

Cruz Azul’s veteran coach, Brazilian-born Ricardo Ferretti, laughed when asked if his team expected to face Messi.

“If he didn’t play… it would have been better. But, they also have to think that why are there so many people here? Because of that, right?” the 69-year-old said.

But Ferretti, known as “Tuca” during his career as coach in Mexico, was a bit upset that the game between the two teams was being seen solely as a player’s debut.

“We will not face a single player. He does not win or lose alone. Football is a team sport. There are players who stand out and that should be emphasized, I agree with that.”

“There are two institutions here – Cruz Azul is a historic team, one of the greats of Mexican football, and Inter Miami is an important team in MLS,” he added.

The Inter Miami player, who hasn’t been hitting the headlines in recent times, has had a strange week, with more than 200 media turning up to film his training session on Tuesday.

But US international DeAndre Yedlin, who played in the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United, said Messi quickly fitted into the dressing room.

“He is a great teammate. For his (presentation) event on Sunday, (striker Leonardo) Campana was looking for tickets and so he put it in the group chat, I didn’t even know Messi was in the group chat yet, but he came right away and said ‘How many do you want Leo?’

He added, “Frankly, they’ve known each other for two or three days, but just to show that generosity is the first example of how he is.”

Martino said Messi looks happy in training and has noticed he is more relaxed after finally winning the World Cup with his country.

“Leo doesn’t have a big bag, and he took it off seven months ago. I think we are in a great moment,” said the coach.

Busquets, who has joined defender Jordi Alba, another former Barca teammate, who signed for the club on Thursday, said it was great to be reunited with Messi.

“I am very happy to enjoy Leo as a team-mate once again, we parted ways but time gives us the chance to get back together, he is a great guy.

“We are looking forward to playing with the best player in the history of football, I am very happy with everything, hopefully we can take what we did now at Inter Miami.”