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America loves superstars. Lionel Messi showed why he is the most super of stars – UnlistedNews

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The pregame hug between LeBron James and Lionel Messi was warm and genuine. The King (of basketball)’s smile was full of camaraderie. And the conversation, as far as it could be seen from afar, seemed to go along the lines of “Welcome back, buddy, here’s a seat at the head table of American sports.”

A couple of hours later, Messi proved why he’s worthy of that billing, not just with the free kick that sent the internet going wild and Inter Miami’s DRV PNK stadium literally shaking to its metal cleats, but by doing it in a way this country finds truly irresistible: with a touch of a fairy tale.

In the last few seconds, with the result of his lane debut, he curled up into an absolute peach, the kind of thing that comes with an absurdly high difficulty level, but you felt like he was going to do it anyway.

Because… Messi.

[Magic! Messi comes off bench to win Miami debut]

It was like a chasing block from LeBron in overtime, or one of Patrick Mahomes’ sidearm beauties on a game-winning drive, or an ace from Serena Williams in the corner of the service box on match point.

American sports royalty gets one reel highlight at a time.

America’s athletic audience loves winners, but reserves its true reverence for those who do it in style and provide evidence of their brilliance with regular flashes of things that leave viewers gaping, collectively shaking their heads.

Lionel Messi executes a ridiculous free kick in his opening match with Inter Miami CF

Lionel Messi executes a ridiculous free kick in his opening match with Inter Miami CF

Iconic status isn’t complete without the championship’s seal of excellence either, but Messi already has it, with a World Cup sealed last December, plus countless individual and club accolades.

And greatness, it seemed a lot already on Friday night, not only acknowledges greatness, but seems to have saved a special place for the arrival of Messi.

[LeBron James among celebrity fans at Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami debut]

Williams, the tennis superstar with a haul of 23 Grand Slam titles, was on hand for Inter Miami’s 2-1 win over Cruz Azul, reacting with delicious disbelief, yelling “whaaaaat” and punching the air in the heady moments after his left foot smashed into the net.

Mahomes, on social networks, positioned the phrase “Wild man!” next to an image of a goat, or a GOAT, on top of a video of Messi’s goal. There was even more celebrity celebration where that came from. And, if Messi has his way, there will be much more in the coming months and years.

America has already enjoyed Messi, because soccer is the most global of all sports and has now reached a position of importance in this country that it has never had before.

Still, we are no different than any other nation in that we like it when things happen on our doorstep and we place extra value on them when they do.

Messi has now scored 700 non-penalty goals in his career, the most in history, but this, his first in Miami’s pink kit, set a tally. This not only felt like a step into a brighter future in football, but a real leap forward.

To be clear, Argentina, no one is trying to steal Messi from you. The 36-year-old loves his homeland like nothing else, and triumphing in his country’s colors in Qatar last winter was undoubtedly his finest hour.

Lionel Messi celebrates Argentina’s victory in the 2022 FIFA World Cup

Lionel Messi celebrates Argentina's victory in the 2022 FIFA World Cup

However, if you keep putting up obstacles like that, just wait and see, the United States will claim it too. Because he’s here now, in your face, doing Messi stuff in real time, in Major League Soccer, and here in the League Cup competition shared between MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX.

It makes everything feel different.

Inter Miami defenseman Kamal Miller represented Canada at the World Cup, the proudest moment of his career, but said he felt “even bigger” tonight.

In the minutes after the final whistle, with Miami co-owner David Beckham fighting back tears of happiness and the crowd still buzzing with energy, Messi showed the other side of himself that has enamored millions for so long.

[How Lionel Messi’s Miami arrival mirrors the Beckham Experiment]

While his career rival Cristiano Ronaldo has often portrayed himself in an unabashedly self-centered way, Messi has always insisted that the team is above all else, regardless of their exceptional level.

Apparently, he is already taking his responsibilities as Inter captain very seriously. While being interviewed by MLS Español, Messi paid tribute to young homegrown defender Ian Fray, who suffered a serious injury early in the game and was in great distress before leaving the field.

“Let me dedicate this victory to Ian,” Messi said. “[He] He was suffering in the locker room due to the injury he suffered. He is coming off two serious injuries, and today he has the bad luck to go through an injury again.”

That’s class. That’s a captain. That is Messi. And that… is a great way to start.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @mrogersfox and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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Sara Marcushttps://unlistednews.com
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.
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