Bend It Like Leo: Messi Scores Sensational Freekick On Inter Miami Debut

Argentine legend makes it worth the hype for audience that included LeBron James, Serena Williams, David Beckham

Lionel Messi (C) celebrates the freekick with his Inter Miami teammates.

Lionel Messi did what he does best, make football look easy and give people their money’s worth. On the 36-year-old’s much hyped debut for Inter Miami against Mexico’s Cruz Azul on Friday, he scored with a trademark left-footed freekick in the 94th minute to help his team win 2-1.

Thousands had paid top dollar to watch the world’s greatest contemporary footballer, who inspired Argentina to a famous World Cup win in Qatar last year. The audience at Fort Lauderdale’s DRV PNK Stadium included LeBron James, Serena Williams and David Beckham, a Miami co-owner along with Jorge and Jose Mas. And Messi delivered, like he does most of the time.

“What I saw was the goal,” Messi said of the moment the team were awarded a freekick in injury time. “I saw the goal. I knew that I had to score.”    
With the score 1-1, Messi wanted to settle the game then and there. 

“It was the last play of the game and I wanted to score so I didn’t go to penalties,” Messi said.

Miami are paying Messi $50-60 million a year, and he will earn more through various other means in his contract.  So when he sent the ball over the heads of four defenders for the winning goal, it set off spectacular celebration. Fireworks went up into the night, and Messi ran to the right corner of the field and hugged his teammates. 

Inter Miami coach Tata Martino called it “a movie that we have seen before.” 

On the goal, Martino said, “It’s common for him, you know. It looks absolutely normal, but it’s not ... we’re speaking about the GOAT.”

Messi entered the field eight minutes into the second half, just when anticipation had peaked. Many from the estimated crowd of 20000 whipped out their cellphones to record the historic occasion. But even when Messi was awaiting his turn on the bench, he was graciously waving to the crowds. And he also greeted them when he came onto the field to play. 

“It's such a moment for this country,” said Beckham. “It's such a moment for the league. And it's a very proud moment for us.”