Lionel Messi made his long-awaited debut with Major League Soccer side Inter Miami with a flourish only the world’s top player could produce.
Playing in the Leagues Cup match against Mexican side Cruz Azul, Messi scored the game-winning goal in the final moments of the second half, curling in a magnificent free-kick strike from outside the box to seal the 2-1 Inter Miami victory at sold-out DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“What I saw was the goal. I saw the goal, I knew that I had to score,” Messi told the Apple TV broadcast after the game. “It was the last play of the game and I wanted to score so we didn’t go to penalties. So it was very important for us to get this win, because it’s a new tournament this is going to give us confidence moving forward.”
Leagues Cup, an annual tournament between MLS and Liga MX, was expanded this year to include all teams in each league.
Months after winning the World Cup with Argentina, Messi entered the game in the 54th minute, with Inter Miami holding a 1-0 lead.
Cruz Azul equalized in the 65th minute, opening the door for Messi’s game-winning heroics.
After several close encounters, Messi finally broke through in the 94th minute to put a fairytale ending to his debut.
“As soon I saw the free kick given, I thought this is the way it’s meant to win, especially when you have players like Leo and Sergio (Busquets) on the pitch,” Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham told the Apple TV broadcast after the game.
“This is such a special night for us, for our family, for everyone that’s in this stadium, for you guys. It is such a moment for this country, It’s such a moment for this league and it’s a very proud moment for us.”
The stars were out to watch the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner with the likes of Beckham, NBA superstar LeBron James, tennis champion Serena Williams and Kim Kardashian in the stands.
Inter Miami next play on Tuesday at home against MLS side Atlanta United in a Leagues Cup group stage match.