A sold-out crowd of about 20,000 waited through a delay caused by torrential rain and heavy lightning to officially welcome Lionel Messi to Inter Miami on Sunday.
The ceremony, dubbed La PresentaSIon, at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, also marked Miami’s official signing of former FC Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets. The 35-year-old Spaniard landed a deal that runs through the 2025 season.
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Busquets and Messi were teammates with Barcelona for 15 seasons.
The event started about two hours later than originally scheduled with wet but delighted fans chanting Messi’s name as the lights dimmed on the venue.
The club’s co-owner David Beckham opened the ceremony, saying Messi’s arrival was a “dream come true”.
“Leo, we are so proud that you have chosen our club for the next stage in your career,” said the former Manchester United player whose move to MLS’s Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 was the league’s previous biggest arrival.
“Welcome to our family Leo,” Beckham added in Spanish, to roars from the crowd.
Upon being introduced, Messi briefly addressed the crowd before the team played a tribute video on the scoreboard screen. The likes of Tom Brady, Stephen Curry, DJ Khaled, and Gloria and Emilio Estefan welcomed Messi to the United States.
“Thank you very much to all the people for supporting me and giving me this love,” Messi said in Spanish. “I am very happy to be here in Miami.
“I really want to start training, to compete, I have the same desire that I always had to compete, to want to win, to help the club continue to grow.
“I am very happy to have chosen to come to play in this city with my family, to choose this project and I have no doubt that we are going to enjoy it a lot, we are going to have a good time and very good things are going to happen.”
Inter Miami confirmed on Saturday that the seven-times Ballon d’Or winner had signed a deal that would keep him with the club until 2025.
As for Busquets, he was a member of Spain’s World Cup-winning squad in 2010 and earned 143 international caps. He retired from international play following the 2022 World Cup.
His contract with Barcelona was not renewed this season, which opened up an opportunity to join Messi with the Herons.
“I am excited to welcome Sergio Busquets to Inter Miami,” managing owner Jorge Mas said in a news release. “Since day one we have set out to bring the world’s best players. Sergio’s repertoire speaks for itself.”
Busquets said in a press release, “This is a special and exciting opportunity that I’m very excited to take. I’m looking forward to this next step in my career with Inter Miami.
“I was impressed by the club when I came with Barcelona last year and now I’m happy and ready to represent the club myself. I can’t wait to help bring the success that this ambitious club strives for.”
Busquets also has a solid relationship with recently hired Inter Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, the former headman at Barcelona for the 2013-14 season who also had a solid bond with Messi.
Inter Miami is experiencing a tough MLS campaign and has the worst record (5-14-3, 18 points) in the 29-team league.
The Herons are winless in their past 11 MLS matches (0-8-3), with their last victory a 2-1 home decision over the New England Revolution on May 13.