Lionel Messi presented his record eighth Ballon d'Or to the Inter Miami faithful in a friendly against New York City FC, where he the fans for their tremendous support and welcome since his arrival in July.
The World Cup champion first arrived in July on a free transfer following his Paris Saint-Germain exit, signing a two-and-a-half-year contract with Inter Miami. He made an immediate impact, leading Miami to their first ever trophy, lifting the 2023 Leagues Cup over Nashville SC after penalty kicks.
In Messi's first half-season with the Herons in all competitions, he notched 11 goals and five assists in 14 appearances.
"Thank you for being here, for this lovely honor. For me, it’s really beautiful to be able to share it with you. I’ve only been here a short time, but it feels like I’ve been here forever," Messi said before the friendly.
Messi went on to explain that people of Miami have welcomed him with open arms, making it an easy transition to life in America for the Argentine superstar.
"I want to thank all the people of Miami, not only those that are here in the stadium, but the city in general for how they’ve treated me all these months, both myself and my family. They’ve shown me a lot of kindness, making me feel at home. It’s a city with lots of Latinos, which makes me feel really comfortable. We’re doing well here, so thank you very much," he added.
The League Cup victory also allowed the team to qualify for the 2024 edition of the Concacaf Champions Cup for the first time in club history.
"We’ve been here a short time but we already achieved something very important, which was the first title for this club, for our club. It's something very important because we went for it, the club needed it. For us players, for how we were doing, it’s important for what’s to come next year. And why not the possibility of playing an important tournament?
"Like I said in the beginning, I had no doubts we were going to have fun, we were going to enjoy. And today I have no doubts, just like in the beginning, that next year will be much better. We’re going to keep on having fun, keep on winning titles. And hopefully you join us like you did all these months I’ve been here because we really need your support. It was amazing having you close."
Miami's preseason is set to start in mid-January, with former Liverpool and Barcelona striker Luis Suarez on the clubs radar to bolster their forward ranks.
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