To expand the most exuberant individual record in world soccer, Lionel Messi will have to completely turn around Inter Miami, one of the worst teams of the season in the North American League (MLS).
The franchise co-owned by David Beckham trusts the arrival of the Argentine star, who will be presented on Sunday in style, to reverse his worst streak of results since his entry into the MLS in 2020.
To get the ship back on track, Messi will have the support of veteran Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets, who is also expected at Sunday’s event.
Inter is working against the clock to complete the signing of other ex-teammates of the Argentinian at Barcelona, such as Jordi Alba, while Gerardo Martino was hired for the bench, who has already led Messi in two stages at the Barça club and the Albiceleste team, without major losses. Titles.
The Florida team accumulates ten consecutive games without winning, including seven consecutive defeats, which plunged it to the last position in the Eastern Conference with 18 points in 21 games.
The North American league, however, has a format favorable to surprises. With 13 games to play, Inter is 11 points from the playoff places, to which 16 of the 29 teams qualify.
After a first round with an unprecedented modality of the best of three games, the qualifiers will be played in a single duel on the field of the best classified in the regular phase, just like the final on December 9.
“In the playoffs, anything can happen. We have seen that sometimes the last teams beat the first,” MLS sports director Alfonso Mondelo told AFP this week.
“It’s what makes this championship a little more different and exciting. There’s a postseason like in the NBA or the NFL and it’s another world,” he said. “There the competition is open to everyone.”
STAFF UNDER RENEWAL
In addition to the MLS title, Messi’s Inter will also compete in the Leagues Cup, a pioneering tournament that will bring together the 47 squads from the North American and Mexican leagues for one month. The star from Rosario is expected to debut in Inter’s pink uniform at the opening of the Leagues Cup on July 21 against Cruz Azul.
The third minor competition of the year is the US Open Cup, in which Inter is in the semifinals and which guarantees the winner a ticket to the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup, the access route to the Club World Cup. .
Inter’s sporting results have never lived up to the ambitions expressed by Beckham and the other owners of the franchise.
His first ‘bomb signings’, the French Blaise Matuidi and the Argentine Gonzalo Higuaín, landed at the end of their careers and did not turn the tide of a franchise that has only played one round of playoffs since 2020.
This season, Inter replaced the retired Higuaín with the Venezuelan Josef Martínez who, after a serious knee injury, has not returned to the form with which he won the 2018 MVP award.
Between Martínez and the Ecuadorian Leonardo Campana, the other striker who could accompany Messi, they barely have 10 goals. The Mexican midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro, perhaps the greatest talent on the squad, never established himself in Miami and is on the way out to leave a franchise player spot for Messi or Busquets.
Several players who are not yet 20 years old line up in the midfield, such as the Argentine Benjamin Cremaschi. At the rear they have two experienced central defenders in the Ukrainian Sergiy Kryvtsov and the Canadian Kamal Miller, who have not been able to prevent Inter from being the fourth team with the most goals against (33).
REUNITED WITH MARTINO
The sporting crisis at Inter led to the dismissal in June of English coach Phil Neville whose position, after a brief internship, was taken over this week by Gerardo Martino.
Also born in Rosario, ‘Tata’ Martino led Messi during a season at Barcelona (2013-14) that ended with just one Spanish Super Cup title.
Soon after, Martino took the reins of the Argentina national team for another brief stint that ended with two frustrating losses in the 2015 and 2016 Copa América finals to Chile on penalties.
The coach, after a gray spell with the Mexican team, is now reunited with Messi in a championship in which he experienced one of the greatest successes of his career, guiding Atlanta United to the 2018 title.