After a “hellish” year, Messi returns to Paris after a year away

Lionel Messi (36, Inter Miami) may be stepping on European soil again. He won’t be switching teams. He could be playing for Argentina at the Olympics.

Javier Mascherano, the head coach of Argentina’s Olympic team, told Spanish publication Sport on Monday that Messi could be looking for a new challenge at the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Mascherano hinted at the possibility of selecting Messi and Angel di Maria as wild cards.”

“It is a great pride for the Argentine Olympic team to have two world champions,” Mascherano said. Messi and Di Maria deserve every decision. It would be a great help to have them at the Olympics.”

Messi grew up in the Barcelona youth ranks and became one of the greatest of all time. He scored over 600 goals for Barcelona and became an icon with the number 10 shirt. Disillusioned with what he perceived to be a lax and philosophical management of the team under president Josep Bartomeu, Messi tried to leave the club, but was soon convinced to sign a new contract.

Laporta’s arrival led to a verbal agreement, but the contract was never signed. The money paid under Bartomeu and the coronavirus pandemic meant that the Primera Liga did not meet the salary cap. Messi ended up joining Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent.

Paris Saint-Germain signed Messi to a 2+1 year contract. Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were already part of the “Space Guard” squad. It was a self-proclaimed UEFA Champions League winning squad, but it didn’t have the big names it wanted.

Paris Saint-Germain wanted to re-sign Messi and trigger his option for a one-year extension after this season, but Messi’s response was tepid. After winning the World Cup in Qatar with the Argentine national team, there was a brief flurry of excitement, but negotiations for an extension stalled. In the second half of the tournament, Messi was away as an ambassador for Saudi Arabia, but his suspension meant he crossed an unbridgeable river. Paris fans also criticized Messi for traveling to Saudi Arabia after the team’s loss.

Messi parted ways with Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent. Upon leaving Paris, he said, “I want to thank the people of Paris for the last two seasons. I wish them all the best for the future,” he said in his official farewell.

A new destination. For the first time in his professional career, Messi will play outside of Europe. Inter Miami hinted at Messi’s arrival through official channels, with the MLS office tweeting, “Messi has made it known that he is interested in joining Inter Miami this summer. We are very pleased. While there are some final details to be finalized before a formal agreement is reached, we welcome one of the greatest soccer players of all time to MLS.”

“I really wanted to come back to Barcelona, I was excited to go back,” Messi said. But I heard that the club had to release players or reduce their salaries, and I didn’t want to go through that again, I didn’t want to be responsible for everything,” he said, signaling his farewell to Europe.

Barcelona said: “I met with Messi’s agent and father, Jorge Messi, on Monday. We were informed of his desire to come to Barcelona, but he told us of his decision to join Inter Miami. Laporta said he understood and respected Messi’s desire to get away from the pressure and spotlight he has been under recently and compete in a less demanding league. Messi has been and will continue to be a favorite of the Barcelona fans. We wish him the best of luck.”

He has decided to leave Europe and continue his career in the United States. Inter Miami announced in July on the club’s official website, “We are pleased to announce the arrival of seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and World Cup Champion Messi. Messi will play for us until 2025.” After posting a video hinting at the signing last month, the club finally made it official.

“We are honored to welcome them to their new home. We have ambitious plans to bring the best soccer players from around the world in 2018. Thank you to our fans for believing in us. We will continue to turn dreams into reality.”

Owner David Beckham added: “Ten years ago, when I was trying to build a new team in Miami, I believed it was possible to bring a great player here. Today that dream has come true. I’m very proud and I can’t wait to see Messi play.”

Messi’s arrival injected new life into a bottom-of-the-table Inter Miami team. Messi scored the winning goal in the US Open Cup semifinal against Cincinnati at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, on March 24 (ET), winning 5-4 on penalties after extra time. Inter Miami, who advanced to the final, will play for the trophy against the winner of the Houston Dynamo-Real Salt Lake match. The final is on September 27.

Inter Miami opted for a pragmatic game plan. Campagna and Messi looked to score up front, while Motta, Busquets, and Gomes spread the ball around the front line, coordinating attack and defense from the back. In defense were Alba, Miller, Áviles, Kroos, and Yedlin, with Callender in goal. Messi wore the captain’s armband and encouraged his teammates.

Inter Miami gave Messi a free hand. Despite being placed in the front two, Messi was free to move around and lead the Inter Miami attack. Inter Miami fluidly deployed players to follow Messi’s movements, looking for openings in the opponent’s defense. Cincinnati also had a solid three-back system. Vazquez and Buffenza were up front, with Vareal, Moreno, N’Boda, and Arias in the back. Murphy, Miazga, and Haglund in defense, with Kahn in goal.

They played a pragmatic game, but disrupted Cincinnati’s buildup in the back when they could. However, with the pressure up front and the defense dropping, there was a lot of distance between the front line and the back four. This was ideal for giving the opposition the initiative from the back.

Cincinnati was more aggressive than Inter Miami. When they tried to press forward, the back line would drop back to create organization. Cincinnati’s strategy paid off and they struck first in the 18th minute. Acosta’s left-footed shot beat the Miami defense and the post to score. Just two minutes after the goal, Buffenza nearly gave Cincinnati the lead when he rattled the net again. However, the goal was disallowed due to an offside call.

With the lead in hand, Cincinnati tried to keep the ball in their possession as much as possible. The Reds didn’t panic and tried to equalize on the counterattack. Messi waited for the opportunity with a hawk’s eye, and when the ball came, he moved quickly to rattle Inter. But the pace of Inter’s attack was slower than Cincinnati’s, and Messi didn’t have much of a chance. Cincinnati focused on defense and threw cold water on the Inter Miami flow.

Inter Miami made a brief push in first-half stoppage time. Motta tried a mid-range shot that went wide of the goal. Gomes followed up with a header that also went wide. Cincinnati fought back, but there were no more goals.

After a tight first half, there was a fierce midfield battle in the second half. Inter Miami pushed harder in the second half after failing to create a result despite high ball possession in the first half. They didn’t have much fluency in their attack, but for once, they took control and shook things up.

However, it was Cincinnati who tasted the goal. In the eighth minute of the second half, a counterattack hit Inter Miami space and Vasquez broke through the Inter defense with a powerful mid-range shot. Inter Miami had to shake their heads at their shaky organization.

Inter Miami made a change 13 minutes into the second half, bringing on Farias, Luis, and Taylor. The early substitutions were all they could muster in search of a goal. It threw off their offensive balance, but it was a necessary move to get a goal. The Cincinnati offense was also struggling to keep up with Inter Miami.

After pounding away, the goal came. In the 23rd minute, Messi sent in a left-footed free kick that Campagna rushed onto and finished with his head. It was Messi’s second assist of the season and his eighth consecutive offensive point for the Argentine, who moved to the United States at the end of the 2022-23 season.

Cincinnati didn’t stand idly by. It rattled the net from a corner set piece. But just like in the first half, a handball foul disallowed the goal. Having survived the crisis, Inter Miami pushed forward. They pounded away at the flanks. Cincinnati was determined to hold on to the one-goal lead. In the 33rd minute, Inter Miami brought on Allen and Martinez for a final push. Cincinnati tried to stay solid with their defense.

Neither team scored in regulation time. However, in the eighth minute of extra time, a miracle happened for Inter Miami. They allowed Cincinnati to threaten, but then changed the momentum. This time, the goal came from Messi’s toes. Campagna rattled the net with another header from Messi’s left-footed cross.

A miraculous buzzer beater sent the game into extra time. Inter Miami brought on a striker to add to the attack. With the momentum in their favor, Inter Miami found the back of the net off the foot of Martinez, who came on as a substitute in the first three minutes of overtime. It was a slick finish into a Cincinnati box that had been disrupted. But Cincinnati didn’t stop at one goal. They turned the game around, but in a big way. Late in overtime, they scored the theater tying goal. Gubo’s powerful right-footed shot rattled the net.

Unable to find a winner after a 120-minute battle, the two teams were forced to play Russian roulette with fate. Inter Miami converted all of their kicks, but Cincinnati breathed a sigh of relief when their fifth kick was saved by the Inter Miami goalkeeper. Recently, Inter Miami has been knocking off the big boys in penalty kicks with an impressive winning percentage.

Soccer statistician Footmob gave Messi the man of the match award with an 8.9 rating. Campagna (8.7) and Busquets (7.4), who scored back-to-back goals, followed with ratings in the 8s and 7s, respectively. The rest of the defense and goalkeeping resources were in the 6s. Cincinnati’s highest rated player was Acosta (8.5), who played on the first line. 바카라

In short, it was happy soccer. Neymar recently gave us a glimpse into his life at Paris Saint-Germain. In an interview with Brazilian outlet Globuesporte, Neymar said, “I went through hell at Paris Saint-Germain. I came to Paris to make history and become champions again, that’s why I played with Messi at Paris Saint-Germain. We came together to make history, but we couldn’t do it,” he said.

“Messi walked in heaven with the Argentina national team. I was so happy for him to win the World Cup. But when he came back to Paris Saint-Germain, he went through hell again. In my opinion, Messi was treated so unfairly at Paris Saint-Germain. We were nothing at Paris Saint-Germain. He deserved to finish his career in the same way as the Argentina national team.”

Messi is a strong favorite to win the Ballon d’Or this year after dominating the world at the World Cup. If he wins the Ballon d’Or for the 2022-23 season, he’ll be the eighth player in history to do so.

Messi has done it all, but not if Argentina comes calling. A tight schedule ahead of the Copa America in 2024 will be an issue, but it’s not out of the question that Mascherano and company will be aiming for Olympic gold. Messi reached the pinnacle of the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 as a promising youngster.

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