The sights and noises told the story Friday evening in San Salvador, as Inter Miami CF faced El Salvador’s national team to start off the 2024 preseason.
For weeks, there had been tremendous buzz surrounding the match and the fact that Lionel Messi, widely regarded as the best player in the sport’s history, would play.
Thousands of local supporters, many wearing Messi jerseys, greeted each Miami player as they took the pitch at a sold-out Cuscatlán Stadium.
One of the evening’s highlights for soccer fans all around the world had to be when El Salvador’s own, renowned Jorge Alberto “El Mágico” González took to the field to perform the opening kick-off as part of the pre-game ritual.
El Mágico, whom Argentine soccer star Diego Armando Maradona described as “bigger than Pelé and myself,” was greeted with loud screams, especially when Messi recognised him and approached him.
Earlier, hundreds of fans greeted Inter Miami as they stepped off new buses painted in Inter Miami colours, which transported the team from the airport to their hotel.
El Salvador literally pulled out the red carpet for the Miami squad. As players came off the plane, they were greeted with a red carpet typically reserved for heads of state or people of distinction.
Messi began the game alongside former Barcelona colleagues Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba, who played the entire 45 minutes.
Inter Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino substituted Facundo Farías, Leonardo Campana, Chris McVey, and David Ruiz for Messi, Suarez, Busquets, and Alba during the second half.
The game would end with a scoreless tie.
Cuzclatán Stadium can house up to 53,400 people, and they were treated to an enthralling contest with numerous scoring opportunities for both teams.
Tickets for the highly anticipated event ranged from $200 to $475, however they were likely sold for much more through third-party vendors.
Inter Miami CF is slated to play six additional preseason games. Messi will play his longtime Spanish League opponent, Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo (CR7), in Saudi Arabia on February 1st.
On February 15, Inter Miami will host Newell’s Old Boys from Argentina. Prior to joining Barcelona, Messi was a member of the Rosario club’s youth system. Messi has stated on numerous occasions that his boyhood club holds a special place in his heart.
Inter Miami : Here is the rest of their pre-season schedule:
- Jan. 22 (6 pm ET) Inter Miami vs. FC Dallas Cotton Bowl Stadium (Dallas, Texas)
- Jan. 29 (1 pm ET) Inter Miami vs. Al Hilal SFC Kingdom Arena (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
- Feb. 1 (1 pm ET) Inter Miami vs. Al Nassr FC Kingdom Arena (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)
- Feb. 4 (time TBA) Inter Miami vs. Hong Kong Team Hong Kong Stadium (Hong Kong)
- Feb. 7 (time TBA) Inter Miami vs. Vissel Kobe Japan National Stadium (Tokyo, Japan)
- Feb. 15 (time TBA) Inter Miami vs. Newell’s Old Boys DRV PNK Stadium (Fort Lauderdale)
Messi earned his eighth Ballon d’Or in Paris last year after captaining Argentina’s World Cup victory on December 18, 2022. This is the biggest prize for Inter Miami’s captain yet.
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