Messi charms in 60-minute cameo as Inter Miami concludes preseason with a draw, welcomes post-match photos with open arms

525

16th February 2024 – (Miami) Inter Miami concluded their preseason fixtures on a note of nostalgia and promise, as they played out a 1-1 draw against Argentine outfit Newell’s Old Boys—Lionel Messi’s formative club. Despite a preseason marred by controversy during their Asian tour, the team looked to reset and refocus ahead of the Major League Soccer season kickoff.  After the final whistle, he returned to the pitch where players from his former club Newell’s Old Boys eagerly lined up for photos with the maestro, Messi beaming throughout the entire interaction.

Lionel Messi, who had missed a prior exhibition match in Hong Kong due to injury, took to the pitch with a clear display of fitness and enthusiasm, featuring for 60 minutes. The match, held on Thursday, was a homecoming of sorts for the celebrated forward, with Messi having spent his early years at Newell’s Old Boys before a storied career at Barcelona.

The 36-year-old Argentine had been under scrutiny after a series of subdued appearances during the tour, including just seven minutes of play in Saudi Arabia and sitting out entirely in Hong Kong—a move that prompted over 1,300 complaints from fans seeking refunds from Tatler Asia for the Hong Kong leg of the tour.

In response to the outcry, event organiser Tatler Asia offered a 50 percent refund for match-day tickets bought through official channels.

Inter Miami’s performance against Newell’s Old Boys was a spirited display, with Haitian forward Shanyder Borgelin rising to nod home the opener from a Robert Taylor corner in the 64th minute. The lead was short-lived, however, as Newell’s found an equaliser through midfielder Franco Martin Diaz in the 83rd minute.

The friendly encounter was not merely a rehearsal for tactical fine-tuning but also a heartfelt gathering, with players from Newell’s Old Boys seizing the chance for photographs with Messi post-match, the Argentine legend’s grin a stark contrast to the recent tensions.

The warm-up games have painted a picture of a Miami side still finding its feet, with one win, three draws, and three defeats. The sole victory—a match against a Hong Kong team—was ironically the one Messi missed.