Lionel Messi has finally completed his move to the MLS after flying into join Inter Miami and he’s already been warned about his ankles. The prospect of playing in the American league will definitely be a rather surreal one for Messi.
He spent his entire professional career playing in the major European leagues. That involves spending 17 years with the Barcelona senior team and two seasons with Paris Saint-Germain before his bitter departure at the end of last season. During his years in Europe, Messi perfected the art of adapting himself to thrive in both La Liga and Ligue 1.
With football in Europe hinging more on technical quality than the other continents, Messi’s own unmatched wizardry helped him soar. He maintained an incredible level of consistency in his 19 seasons in the European leagues. At that period, he won 12 league titles (10 with Barca, two with PSG) – the Champions League titles four times and even the Copa Del Rey eight times.
What warning did Leo Messi get after MLS move?
But a switch to the MLS will bring a major change in the general playing style as well. With the MLS still being far from a ‘major’ football league, it contains a lot of South American players who are encouraged to play an aggressive, rough brand of football. Moreover, referees sometimes let aggressive fouls go through without repercussions.
The MLS has gained a notorious reputation for having a lot of red cards in every single season. In the ongoing campaign, the 12th match day saw the referees dish out nine red cards. Two of those came in the match between the Philadelphia Union and the Colorado Rapids – which are both in the same conference as Inter Miami.
Soon after his arrival at the club, Messi was formally warned about what to expect from opposition teams in the MLS. Edgard o Jorge Cascardo, better known as Cachito – is the leader of the Inter Miami fan club called ‘Vice City 1896′. He sent a warning to Leo soon after his arrival, saying: “The arrival of Lionel Messi revolutionized the entire MLS. Before it was soccer, now it’s football.
“Although Leo is plenty, it will be difficult for him to play in the MLS. Here they eat your ankles. I don’t know if they play very well, but they run and run. They are very fast athletes. They will all want to go look for him. Both for the photo and also to say ‘I fouled Messi’.”
Why MLS’ aggression might not faze Messi
To be fair, these comments make a lot of sense. Many defenders in the MLS will try to increase their popularity by bullying Messi or trying to foul him to make the heads and rile his fans. Fortunately for the World Cup winner, he is no stranger to being hounded out by aggressive players.
Messi’s playing style has attracted defenders to try and play rough with him and clank him with aggressive fouls for the past 15+ years. He suffered 65 fouls at the 2023 World Cup itself before the semi-finals even happened. Leo possesses an incredible mental fortitude that keeps him going even after being fouled – and he is fearless towards rough challenges.
It’s true that he will need to be a bit careful with his playing style, because he can’t risk suffering terrible injuries at the age of 34. But Messi’s incredible game-reading ability and tendency to keep himself protected from awful fouls should help him tackle the MLS defenders’ rash challenges pretty well.
He has a big challege in front of him to take Inter Miami to the MLS summit. They are currently floundering at the bottom of the MLS table and it’ll be quite an impressive achievement if Leo can make them MLS champions anytime soon in the near future.