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Inter Miami still targeting July 21 for Messi debut

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA (AP) – Inter Miami is still targeting a July 21 debut match for Lionel Messi, though stopped short on Thursday of saying that date was guaranteed.

Sporting Director Chris Henderson said that the paperwork for Messi and new coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino is still being processed.

Martino was introduced by the team on Wednesday but cannot actually begin coaching until his visa process is complete; Messi is expected to sign with the team sometime in early July and there are plans for an introduction event July 16.

“With regard to Leo, the terms are agreed but we are working on the paperwork with Major League Soccer (MLS) so those are going to take time to finish,” Henderson said.

“But we hope that there is a time in mid-late July that he’s ready to go, but that’s just going to be up to how he finishes all the paperwork.”

ABOVE & BELOW: Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi; and coach Gerardo Martino. PHOTO: AP
PHOTO: AP

Some tickets for the July 21 Leagues Cup match against Cruz Azul are on the secondary markets for more than USD10,000 apiece, clearly in anticipation of it being Messi’s debut with the club. He announced earlier this month that he would be joining MLS.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner – the trophy given annually to the world’s best player – decided to make his move to MLS after two years with Paris Saint-Germain. Messi, who just turned 36, filled the only significant unchecked box on his resume back in December by leading Argentina to the World Cup title.

He is expected to make between USD50 million and USD60 million annually with Inter Miami, the club confirmed last week.

Messi was in Argentina recently, where he played a couple of friendly matches last weekend – farewell celebrity games to honour former Argentina teammates Juan Riquelme in Buenos Aires and Maxi Rodriguez in Messi’s hometown of Rosario – and is now vacationing in advance of his arrival in South Florida.

Inter Miami is 5-13-0 in MLS play this season, the worst record of the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference.

Henderson said the team hopes the signings of Messi, Martino and more new players represent “a new beginning for the club. The goal is to make the playoffs this year”.

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