Lionel Messi is one of the greatest soccer players ever, but his joining Inter Miami of Major League Soccer may be the biggest thing to ever happen to the sport in this country.
Messi has wasted no time changing the fortunes of his new team and new league.
Messi was one of the greatest players ever even before he led Argentina to a World Cup championship last year.
"The group now that won the Copa América, that won the World Cup, younger group, they don't see Messi as a normal teammate, but they see him as a deity almost," said Jason Longshore, Atlanta United commentator. "And they play for him. They're not playing next to him. They're playing for him. And this Inter Miami group straight away, I think, has kind of locked in to that idea."
Inter Miami was winless in its previous 11 MLS matches before Messi's arrival. Now they are a force to be reckoned with and one of the most sought-after tickets in the sport.
SCRIPPS NEWS' PAUL CRANE: How important is it that Messi not only came to the MLS but came to a team like Inter Miami and in a place like south Florida?
JASON LONGSHORE: I don't know if there's anywhere else that he would have been as motivated to come to the league for. We've seen Miami be a market in professional sports in the U.S. that is driven by stars. Lionel Messi is the star of stars. I think it is the perfect fit.
Messi turned down hundreds of millions of dollars from the Saudis to play for David Beckham's Inter Miami team.
His two-and-a-half year deal is for $150 million plus equity in the team and added money from Adidas and Apple.
"Apple TV, they're going to be incredibly happy because now their streaming service ... in some parts of the world, Apple's not the dominant factor that it is here in the U.S.," Longshore said. "The Google search of Inter Miami versus Dallas was the largest search term yesterday worldwide. These are places that MLS hasn't been."
World soccer stars have been few and far between in the United States.
The great Pele came to the North American Soccer League in the mid-1970s and David Beckham to the LA Galaxy in the mid-2000s, but Messi is the one with a chance to take the sport in the States to a place those other stars could only dream about.
"Right now he is just so special, and I hope that all sports fans in the United States understand what they're seeing," Longshore said. "I mean, the only comparison I have in my lifetime is ... 'The Last Dance' with the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan at that time. This is like that right now, and we'll see how long it can last for him in Miami and just all of the effects we're going to get from this."
Trending stories at Scrippsnews.com