Messi’s Influence Driving Progress for Inter Miami,” Says Coach Gerardo Martino
According to Coach Gerardo Martino, the presence of Lionel Messi is helping Inter Miami players to improve.
At Inter Miami, Messi has had an impressive start. In his debut match, he came on as a substitute in the 54th minute and scored a sensational free-kick goal in the fourth minute of injury time, sealing a 2-1 victory over Cruz Azul. In the next match against Atlanta United, the Argentine star scored two goals and provided an assist, contributing to Inter Miami’s 4-0 win.
Coach Martino believes that Messi’s impact goes beyond directly influencing the recent match outcomes; he is also helping his teammates progress. “So far, what we have seen is the entire team making progress together. The other players are not overwhelmed by the greatness of their new teammate, but they are looking at what Messi has achieved to learn from it and make even more effort,” Martino stated.
Alongside Messi, during the summer transfer window of 2023, Inter Miami also acquired two other former Barcelona players – who are also football legends with an impressive collection of titles – Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. Busquets made his debut in the match against Atlanta United. “It’s not easy for the Inter Miami players to play alongside those who have made history and achieved numerous high-level titles like the newcomers. But this also shows that Inter Miami is moving in the right direction,” Coach Martino further commented on the positive impact that Messi, Busquets, and Alba are bringing to the team.
Thanks to their two recent victories, Inter Miami is currently leading Group J in the 2023 Leagues Cup and will face Orlando City, who defeated Santos Laguna 3-2, to determine the leader of Group I. During the pre-match press conference, Orlando City’s coach, Oscar Pareja, asserted that his players are not intimidated by the thought of facing the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner on the home team. “We are proud of the opportunity to directly compete against Messi, but we are also confident that Orlando can defeat Miami,” he said.
Spanish newspaper Marca commented that Messi is facing an unprecedented challenge in his career – helping a young team like Inter Miami win a title. However, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has the chance to achieve that if he and Inter Miami win their next four matches in the Leagues Cup 2023, including the final on August 19th. Marca pointed out that Mexican club Pachuca is the most formidable opponent for Inter Miami in the quarter-finals. If Messi succeeds, he will make history by becoming the first representative of Major League Soccer (MLS) to win the Leagues Cup. The titles in the previous two editions of the tournament, in 2019 and 2021, were claimed by Mexican clubs Cruz Azul and Leon, respectively. The 2020 and 2022 editions were canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Qatar World Cup.
The Leagues Cup is an annual tournament introduced in 2019 between clubs from Major League Soccer (MLS) and Liga MX of Mexico in North America. This year’s tournament took place from July 21st to August 19th, featuring a total of 77 matches held in the United States or Canada. The Leagues Cup is organized by MLS and the Mexican Football Federation (FMF), and it’s approved by the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).
For the first time in history, the 2023 Leagues Cup included the participation of all MLS and Liga MX teams, totaling 47 teams, as both leagues temporarily paused their competitions. Following the format, the two finalists and the third-place team secure spots in the 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup, with the champion advancing directly to the Round of 16.