The Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, was packed on 27 August 2023.
What would otherwise have been an unremarkable fixture between the New York Red Bulls and Inter Miami, the 11th and 15th -placed sides in the Eastern Conference, had sold out weeks in advance. Messi Mania had gripped America and the MLS debut of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was the hottest ticket in town.
There were 26,276 people in attendance, watching, enraptured. But in the 89th minute, only one person spotted Benjamin Cremaschi making his move. And still, at age 36 and with little left to achieve in the game, there is only one man capable of executing the kind of pass Messi delivered to pick out his 18-year-old new teammate inside the penalty area.
There was a sense Messi’s career was winding down prior to his move to Miami in July. His tearful exit from Barcelona had given way to a tumultuous two years with Paris Saint- Germain. In Ligue 1, he remained productive and won back-to-back titles. Yet for pretty much the first time in his adult life, there was an acceptance that the Argentinian genius might no longer be the best footballer on the planet.
The 2022 World Cup temporarily dispelled doubts. Messi delivered one of the great campaigns, scoring seven goals and providing three assists to lead his nation to glory and fill the one remaining vacancy in his heaving trophy cabinet.
But with no worlds left to conquer and his PSG contract ending, the greatest career in
football history looked destined to dissipate.
A return to Barcelona was teased and there was a mega-money offer to join his nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo in the Saudi Pro League. Messi instead chose Inter Miami, a club notable more for being part-owned by David Beckham than for anyRead on 90min.com