fans line up outside Inter Miami practice facility to watch Lionel Messi’s Driving away after a training session. Players from opposing teams wait for him to sign an autograph or a simple handshake after the match. His number 10 jersey is everywhere in South Florida.

For Messi, these are reminders that he made the right choice. He could continue his acclaimed career with another stint at Barcelona, ​​where he rose to stardom. he could sign a lucrative deal to play Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia. He chose the unfamiliar – to travel to the States and play football in the United States, and he’s happy with it.

“From the very beginning, from my arrival, we have had an impressive reception,” Messi said through an interpreter. He spoke publicly on Thursday for the first time since announcing on June 7 that he would join MLS’s Inter Miami.

“Today I can tell you I’m very happy with the decision we made,” Messi told a packed room of reporters at Miami’s DRV PNK Stadium.

The 36-year-old said he is still adjusting to his new surroundings. His family is in a temporary location in South Florida while they look for a permanent home. All three of his sons will start school soon.

He is still getting used to “hot and humid” Florida, but overall, the transition has been “much easier than he expected” compared to his transfer from Barcelona. Paris Saint Germainwhere he played the last two years.

Messi said, “I had neither the plan nor the desire to go to Paris.” “I didn’t want to leave Barcelona, ​​and it turned out to be difficult. But it’s the opposite of what’s happening to me now, thank God.”

Since Messi’s announcement, Inter Miami have hired former Barcelona and Argentina Signed with national team coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino and former Barcelona captain sergio busquets and seasoned guard Jordi Alba,

Since then the rise of the club has been tremendous.

Messi has scored nine goals in six games with his new club, which is in last place in the MLS Eastern Conference with a 5-14-3 record. Now on a six-match winning streak, Inter Miami will compete for their first title against Nashville in the League Cup final on Saturday.

[Related: Lionel Messi stats tracker: Every goal, assist and trophy for Inter Miami]

Messi said, “When the competition started, we knew that we would start from the beginning because there was a new coach and other new players with the team.” “Since the beginning, we have done very well thanks to all the new partners who have come here. It was a good opportunity to initiate change and set goals that were difficult for us, but goals that we were ready to achieve. “

Miami defeated Philadelphia – a top three team in the Eastern Conference – in the semifinal round on Tuesday. Messi fired past three Philadelphia defenders from 30 yards in the 20th minute of a 4–1 victory.

In his debut on 21 July, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner sent a free kick into the top left corner of the net in the 94th minute to give Inter Miami a 2–1 win over the Mexican club. blue Cross in the League Cup opener.

Lionel Messi drills a ridiculous free kick in stoppage time in his opening match with Inter Miami CF

He followed this up with a two-goal performance in another League Cup game against Atalanta a few days later.

In their first road game, a League Cup elimination match against FC DallasMessi’s free kick again went round the goalkeeper and into the top corner of the net to win the penalty kick.

Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham said last month, “He’s at that point in his career where he’s done everything a footballer can do to be one of the greatest players in the game, Even if it’s not the greatest player to ever play the game.” , “So he’s still hungry. I’ve seen him on the training pitch. I know he’s still hungry.”

Following some of the biggest names in the game who came to America at the end of their careers – Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Thierry Henry and Beckham himself – Messi has certainly catapulted American football onto the global stage.

He is a four-time Champions League winner with 10 La Liga titles. His 129 goals are the second most in the top club competition Cristiano Ronaldo’s 140.

More than 17 years later and just months after winning the World Cup, Messi is still at the height of his footballing powers. But for him, this stage of his career isn’t about becoming an ambassador for the sport in America or earning even more personal accolades.

“I am here just to play and will continue to enjoy football,” he said.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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