Lionel Messi returned to action for Inter Miami as he played the final 30 minutes of a pre-season friendly against Vissel Kobe in Tokyo.

Messi, who has been suffering with a hamstring injury, was an unused substitute as Inter Miami beat a Hong Kong XI 4-1 on Sunday, with local fans voicing their frustrations having turned up in numbers in expectation of seeing the eight-time Ballon D’Or winner in action.

David Beckham’s Major League Soccer side continued their pre-season build up in Japan and Argentina superstar Messi was able to resume training ahead of their latest friendly.

There was another injury worry for Miami, though, as midfielder Sergio Busquets was forced off with an ankle issue midway through the first half after being caught by a late tackle from Yuya Osako.

Just before half-time, Vissel forward Osako fired over from 10 yards in front of goal after Miami had lost possession when trying to playing out from the back.

The J1 League side went close again early in the second half when Brazil forward Jean Patric headed wide.

Messi came on for the final 30 minutes, replacing David Ruiz, and his introduction was met with loud cheers from fans all around the National Stadium.

Ryuho Kikuchi headed wide from a free-kick into the Miami penalty area, with Messi then forcing a late save from the Vissel goalkeeper and seeing his follow-up effort cleared off the line.

After the match finished goalless, the result was decided on a penalty shoot-out.

Vissel won 4-3 after Miami failed to convert any of their last three spot-kicks, with Messi not taking one.

Miami will now head back to the United States for a final warm-up match against Messi’s boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys in Fort Lauderdale.

The first match of the new MLS season is against Real Salt Lake on February 21.

Lionel Messi said it was a “shame” he could not play in Inter Miami’s pre-season friendly in Hong Kong on Sunday, with his absence leaving angry fans demanding a refund.

Messi, who has been suffering with a hamstring injury, was left on the bench as his side beat a Hong Kong XI 4-1, much to the anger of local fans who had turned up in numbers in expectation of seeing the eight-time Ballon D’Or winner.

Inter co-owner David Beckham was also greeted with boos at a post-match speech while the Hong Kong government later expressed its “deep disappointment” over Messi not playing and at organisers for “failing to provide a detailed explanation promptly”.

Beckham’s MLS side have since moved on to Japan where they will play Vissel Kobe on Wednesday and Argentina superstar Messi trained on Tuesday.

The World Cup winner said in a press conference shown on Sky Sports: “Unfortunately in football things can happen in any game, that we may have an injury. It happened to me.

“I couldn’t play in the Hong Kong match, and it was a shame because I always wanted to participate, I wanted to be there and even more so when it came to these matches.

“When we travelled so far and people were so excited to see our matches. I hope we can return and we play another game and I can play as I do whenever I can. But the truth is that it is a game that I was not able to participate.”

Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham was booed and angry fans chanted for a refund after Lionel Messi did not play in a pre-season friendly in Hong Kong.

Messi, who has been suffering with a hamstring injury, was left on the bench as his side beat a Hong Kong XI 4-1.

In footage posted on social media, fans could be heard chanting “refund” before a post-match speech from Beckham was greeted with boos.

The Hong Kong government said match organisers Tatler Asia could face a reduction in funding.

“The Government today expressed deep disappointment over Messi not playing at Tatler XFEST Hong Kong, Hong Kong Team vs Inter Miami CF, and the organiser failing to provide a detailed explanation promptly,” the government said in a statement.

“The event has been awarded “M” Mark status, as well as a matching grant of 15 million [Hong Kong dollars; £1.5m] and a grant for venue of 1 million by The Major Sports Events Committee (MSEC).

“The Government has also provided a variety of coordination and assistance, including venue arrangement and crowd management, in order to offer football fans a wonderful game and an opportunity to witness the world-class player showcasing his skills.

“Many Hong Kong fans looked forward to the match with enthusiasm, and a lot of tourists came to Hong Kong particularly for the match.

“The Government, as well as all football fans, are extremely disappointed that Messi could neither play in the friendly match, nor explain to the fans in person upon request.

“The way that the organiser and Inter Miami CF handled the situation could not meet the expectations of the fans who showed strong support to Messi, especially those visitors who came all the way here for the match.

“The Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau and the MSEC will rely on the terms and conditions of the agreement in requiring the organiser to take responsibility, including a reduction of the amount of funding as a result of Messi being not able to play in the match.”

Jude Bellingham, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alessia Russo have all fed into the design of the latest edition of Adidas' iconic Predator boot.

Meanwhile, the legacies of Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham – who helped make the boot famous in the 1990s and 2000s – have formed a key part of the "DNA" of the newest design, according to Adidas' category director for football footwear, Mahsa Aryan.

Bellingham has been wearing Predators during his incredible rise to superstardom at Real Madrid, while Liverpool's Alexander-Arnold joined Adidas' stable of athletes late last year.

Both of the England internationals have had their say in the design of the Predator 24, while England and Arsenal women star Russo has also given her feedback in what Aryan described as a "super close" working relationship.

Aryan told Stats Perform: "Over the years, I think where we have been able to succeed has been staying super close to our professional players.

"They obviously have a different level of understanding of how the game is evolving and obviously what their needs are as a result of that evolution and so we stay very closely connected to our clubs, to our key players and make sure we're having a constant conversation of what's working or what's not working.

 

"What's been really fun about the Predator 24 is we've had a lot of conversations throughout the creation, right from basically inception, all the way to the final sign-off that we had on the boots.

"We've had constant conversations with Jude, with the likes of Russo as well, so also the women's game [is] definitely just as important, and with Trent, obviously, he is a new key face who we're super excited to have and super excited that he wants to be such a key part of our launch of Predator."

However, Aryan stressed how keen Adidas were to remain connected to the past, with Zidane in particular playing a key role.

"But we've also maintained and stayed connected to our previous icons," she added: "So I had the pleasure of sitting down and really discussing the Predator 24, and future, with Zidane, for example, and getting a lot of his thoughts, not just from the perspective of an iconic player of the past, but what he sees in the game now.

 

"When you think back into the late 90s, into the early 2000s, there were a lot of, let's call it disruptive players for football footwear, and you could see that was really the evolution of the old style of football, going into the new style.

"It was like the last generation of when football was all about power and all about the specific set pieces and now it's become so much more dynamic. I think those personalities are heavily driven into what the Predator has been, but also the DNA of it, definitely coming from the Zidanes and Beckhams of the world."

The Predators have certainly helped Bellingham thrive at Madrid this campaign. The midfielder has already scored a remarkable 17 goals in just 24 games across all competitions, while adding a further six assists. Alexander-Arnold, meanwhile, has set up eight goals for Liverpool with his quality deliveries.

Lionel Messi's arrival at Inter Miami has brought more attention to MLS, with Giorgio Chiellini hailing the impact of the World Cup winner and likening his move to when David Beckham arrived.

Former Manchester United, Real Madrid and England star Beckham left the Spanish capital for LA Galaxy in 2007 as the dazzling midfielder's move captured the imaginations of many in the United States.

Beckham has since retired and created his own MLS franchise in the USA, bringing the likes of Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba to his newly established Miami side.

Juventus great Chiellini also joined MLS, signing for Los Angeles FC, winning the MLS Cup Final last year before defeat in this season's edition on Saturday to Columbus Crew.

And he vouched for the impact of Messi's move to Miami.

"I think that when Messi joined it was comparable to when Beckham joined," Chiellini told Stats Perform.

"And it's something that the league, but also the players, are very happy about because there is a lot of possibility for the future.

"What Messi did was huge for everyone and now there is much more consideration for the league, much more attention and it helps everyone."

Former Italy centre-back Chiellini announced his retirement on Monday, with reports suggesting the 39-year-old will move back to Juventus to take up a boardroom role.

The European Championship-winning defender will at least be thankful he does not have to face Beckham's Miami again next season.

A Messi-inspired Miami powered to a Leagues Cup triumph, with the Argentina captain scoring 10 goals.

"I don't know how every team could face and beat Miami next year," Chiellini added on Miami, who are reportedly close to signing former Barcelona and Liverpool forward Luis Suarez.

"Fortunately this year I met with Messi when they were at the bottom of the table and then he had one month out.

"They were still a really good team, it was one of the best nights and atmospheres. That's very good for the league, very good for the future of the league."

David Beckham joined AC Milan on loan from Los Angeles Galaxy on this day in 2008.

The then 33-year-old England midfielder agreed a two-month move to Italy to stay fit during the MLS close-season in the United States.

England manager Fabio Capello, who coached Beckham at Real Madrid, said: “Milan have made a good addition.

“At Madrid I left him out of the squad because he had signed a contract with Los Angeles but he continued to come on the field and train and I put him back in the team.

“He is a very serious lad, very sensible, a professional. People think he is a playboy off the field, it’s not true at all.”

The 108-times capped Beckham felt a move to Milan would boost his chances of England selection.

Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said: “His reasons are to stay fit and to make himself available for England, and the only way he can do that is to be training and playing in a good environment.

“This, on the part of David, was a purely technical rationale. He wants to continue to play for England and this is one of the ways to do that.”

Beckham began his glittering career at Manchester United, where he won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League.

He joined Real Madrid in 2003 and spent four years in Spain before moving to LA Galaxy. Beckham had two loan spells at Milan and ended his career at Paris St Germain in 2013.

Beckham went on to win 115 caps for England, a total only bettered by Peter Shilton and Wayne Rooney.

Ronnie O’Sullivan will swap the green baize for the silver screen next month when the behind-the-scenes story of his quest to claim a record-equalling seventh World Snooker Championship is released in the UK.

‘Ronnie O’Sullivan: The Edge of Everything’ has been produced by David Beckham’s Studio 99, and the initial cinematic release on November 21 is preceded by a special Q&A with the former Manchester United and England star.

Explaining his decision to add to the canon of sporting documentaries, O’Sullivan said: “My highs and lows have been well-documented by the media but I felt like now was the right time to do something more definitive – something that I can look back and reflect on as I contemplate retirement.

“Going into my seventh World Championship I wasn’t sure I had it in me but allowing the cameras in gave me perspective and was a strange catharsis.”

The film, which is directed by Sam Blair, who was behind ‘Maradona 86’ and others, will subsequently be released on Prime Video on November 23, before opening in select cinemas nationwide the following day.

O’Sullivan revealed how the filming of the documentary had helped give him a new “perspective”, shortly after he provided it with a fairytale finish in 2022 with his emotional final victory over Judd Trump.

“I’ve given complete access to the point where if you put a fly on the wall and followed me for 17 days, that’s basically what happened,” O’Sullivan said at the time.

“They’ve been in my dressing room, they’ve been in my hotel room before and after matches and sessions. I embraced it because whatever I get involved in, let’s just make it the best I could possibly do.

“These snooker Gods, their timing is unbelievable. Last year I just hit fire at the right time when they (the cameras) were here, and the stars were written for me. They always have been ever since I was a kid in this game.”

Under-fire Harry Maguire has revealed former England captain David Beckham got in touch with him after last month’s Hampden Park hounding to help offer support and advice.

Just over two years after being a Manchester United ever-present and part of the European Championship team of the tournament, the 30-year-old defender now finds himself as the butt of jokes.

Many opposing fans have revelled in Maguire’s drop off and Scotland supporters goaded him mercilessly after coming on and scoring an own goal in England’s 3-1 win last month.

Maguire immediately laughed it off as a “little bit of banter” but hearing from somebody that knows a thing or two about intense criticism meant the world to him.

Few have faced sharper focus in an England shirt than Beckham, who has laid bare the pain he suffered after his 1998 World Cup red card against Argentina in a new Netflix documentary.

“I actually spoke with David about three weeks ago, after the Scotland game,” Maguire said.

“He got in touch with me, so it was really nice of him and I really appreciated that. It meant everything. I’ve spoken throughout my career about David Beckham being someone I looked up to and watched when I was a young boy.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t end up on the right wing scoring and assisting as many goals as he has. But he was a big role model when I was growing up.

“It shows how classy he is to reach out to me and to message me. It was something I really appreciated. It was touching really.”

 

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Maguire did not want to divulge too much about their conversation but said the “main thing” Beckham did was to remind him of his career to date and the big moments he has enjoyed.

 

“I think when you’re going through tough moments you’ve got to go through past experiences and past memories and where you’ve gone in your career and what you’ve been through,” he said at St George’s Park.

“Every career is so up and down, especially when you reach what I’ve reached, in terms of being the captain of the biggest club in the world for three and a half years. He’s been in that position and knows what it’s like.

“Obviously having watched the documentary I couldn’t believe how much he went through at the time. In the documentary Gary Neville speaks about how resilient he is as a person. I think he’s been a huge role model for many footballers growing up, especially in my era.”

That chat and his experiences have helped Maguire retain belief and confidence, as has the continued faith shown in him by Gareth Southgate.

The England boss has been in charge for all 59 of his caps and snapped in Glasgow at treatment he said was “ridiculous”, “a joke” and “beyond anything I’ve ever seen”.

“I try and stay away from it all,” Maguire said when Southgate’s comments were put to him.

“Obviously you can’t stay away from it as your family and friends are probably seeing things, they probably read a lot more than I do.

“Yeah, there has been a lot of talk about me over the last year. For that talk to happen, you have got to have built your way up to be a top performer like I’ve done over the previous five years to that.

“Things haven’t gone to plan over the last year or so, but I am sure it will get back on track. A career is a long path. Many ups, many downs, it probably has been a little blip and I am trying to be back to where I was.”

Maguire knows he needs to repay Southgate’s faith by playing more minutes with Euro 2024 looming large and says he can continue to “block” out any abuse.

But he knows that is “a bit tougher” for his loved ones and his mother Zoe last month criticised the “disgraceful” abuse her son has been subjected to, which she claimed went far beyond football.

“It probably affects my family and friends more than it affects myself, especially when I am playing in a game,” Maguire said.

“I have had so many great nights and have so many great memories playing for my country and playing for my club as well. You play football to create memories – not just for myself but for my family and my friends.

“Obviously, the last year has been a little bit difficult for them to enjoy the games as they did in the previous eight or nine years of my career. I’m sure that will change. I’ll keep working hard and keep fighting for my place and keep trying to put things right.”

Former Manchester United star David Beckham believes he knows the right people to take over and restore the club’s fortunes.

Speaking to Sky Sports at the Qatar Grand Prix as the ongoing takeover saga at Old Trafford approaches its first anniversary, the 48-year-old Inter Miami president admitted he was hoping for a conclusion to the Glazer family’s strategic review sooner rather than later.

Asked if Saturday’s last-gasp Premier League victory over Brentford could be a turning point for manager Erik ten Hag, Beckham told Sky Sports: “Let’s see.

 

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“He’s a good coach. It is a difficult time at the moment, but there’s a lot of noise around the club at the moment, so it can’t be easy for him.

 

“We all want that noise to go away and we all want a decision to be made for the club, for the fans, for the players and for the manager as well because we are one of the, if not the, biggest clubs in the world and we want stability, and I think that’s the most important thing.

“We all have our favourites of who we feel need to run the club and look after the club and take the club back to where it belongs, but in our eyes, in the fans’ eyes, we’re number one and we want to be back at the top.

“I believe I know the right people to do that, so…”

Asked if “the right people” could be Sheikh Jassim, Beckham added with a smile: “We’ll see.”

Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim and INEOS founder Sir Jim Ratcliffe both submitted offers to buy the club in February and have made further bids since, although little significant progress has been made.

The club’s valuation on the New York Stock Exchange plummeted by more than £500million last month in the wake of reports the Glazers may not sell after all, and reports since have suggested Ratcliffe, the second-richest person in the UK according to the Sunday Times Rich List, could decide instead to buy a minority stake in the Premier League giants.

Meanwhile, Beckham sent his condolences to his former United boss Sir Alex Ferguson following the death of his wife Lady Cathy at the age of 84.

He said: “Obviously deepest sympathies go to the boss because to have Cathy by his side for a long, long time, got many, many years to be the strength that he needed through his career and through his life, it’s a really sad time for him and his family and the grandkids, so we obviously send our love to him.

“She was an incredible person and someone… We looked up to the boss, we also looked up to Cathy, so it’s a really sad time for him.”

England captain David Beckham scored a last-minute free-kick on this day in 2001 to salvage a 2-2 draw against Greece and secure his country a place at the upcoming World Cup.

Sven-Goran Eriksson’s team were losing 2-1 entering stoppage-time at Old Trafford and heading for a World Cup play-off with Ukraine when Beckham rescued his team.

Beckham curled home a trademark free-kick in the third minute of added time to send England to the World Cup in Japan and South Korea and help the midfielder earn redemption for his red card at the 1998 World Cup.

 

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The sending-off of Beckham for kicking out at Argentina’s Diego Simeone during England’s last-16 penalty shoot-out defeat in France three years earlier had resulted in a huge public backlash for the then-Manchester United winger.

Beckham would go on to help United win the treble in 1999 before he became permanent captain of his country upon the arrival of Eriksson as England manager.

Ahead of England’s final World Cup qualification match against Greece, the Three Lions were still vying with Germany for top spot in Group Nine.

Greece took a shock lead at Old Trafford through Angelos Charisteas and while England substitute Teddy Sheringham levelled in the 68th-minute, the hosts’ joy was short-lived.

Demis Nikolaidis immediately put Greece back in front and England were – at this point – set to finish a point behind Germany, who were being held by Finland.

Beckham was desperate to lead his country to the 2002 World Cup and after several failed set-piece efforts, he found his range in the third minute of second half stoppage time with a stunning strike to spark wild celebrations at his home ground.

News filtered through around the same time of Germany’s draw with Finland, which meant England finished top of Group Nine and were assured of their place at the tournament in Japan and South Korea.

David Beckham has revealed he still cannot forgive himself for the abuse his family suffered amid the fallout from his red card at the 1998 World Cup, which left him a “mess”.

A new Netflix documentary series titled ‘Beckham’ is set for release on Wednesday, looking back on the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder’s career as well as his marriage to Spice Girls singer and fashion designer Victoria.

In episode two, titled ‘Seeing Red’, Beckham, now 48, reflected on the “stupid mistake” which changed his life after he was sent off for kicking the back of Diego Simeone’s leg during the last-16 clash against Argentina in Saint-Etienne.

England went on to lose after a penalty shootout and Beckham found himself centre of a backlash – including a pub hanging up an effigy of the midfielder, who received a hostile reception from rival fans around the country when he returned to action for United the following season.

In the documentary, Victoria Beckham said the continued abuse left her husband “absolutely clinically depressed” as the then 23-year-old tried to deal with the fallout alongside becoming a father for the first time in March 1999.

Beckham admitted the saga “took a toll on me that I never knew myself”.

He said: “I wish there was a pill you could take which could erase certain memories. I made a stupid mistake. It changed my life.

“We were in America (on holiday after the World Cup), just about to have our first baby, and I thought, ‘we will be fine. In a day or two people will have forgotten’.”

Beckham added: “I don’t think I have ever talked about it, just because I can’t. I find it hard to talk through what I went through because it was so extreme.

“Wherever I went, I got abused every single day – to walk down the street and to see people look at you in a certain way, spit at you, abuse you, come up to your face and say some of the things they said, that is difficult.

“I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping. I was a mess. I didn’t know what to do.”

Beckham added: “It brought a lot of attention that I would never wish on anyone, let alone my parents, and I can’t forgive myself for that.

“That is the tough part of what happened, because I was the one that made the mistake.

“It is only now that I am 47 years old, it is now that I beat myself up about it (still).

“When I have gone through difficult moments, I was able to block it out, but inside it killed me.”

Beckham spoke of the support he received from then Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and the club as he looked to focus on his football.

“That was the only thing I could control – once I was on the pitch, then I felt safe,” Beckham said.

“Anytime I was kicked during that season, it was like the (opposition team) had got two goals.”

Beckham added: “As horrible as it was to look up to Victoria in the stand (getting that abuse), it was the one thing which spurred me on.”

The Netflix documentary also charts Beckham’s triumphant end to the 1998-99 season, which culminated with United having won the Premier League, FA Cup and a memorable Champions League final against Bayern Munich in Barcelona.

With Paul Scholes and Roy Keane suspended, Beckham played an integral role in United’s comeback win, which was secured by two goals in stoppage time.

Reflecting on the match, Ferguson said: “With David, that night there was something inside him saying, ‘I am not going to let this happen’. It was a personal thing that he had in him, that stubbornness and determination.”

Beckham’s former United and England team-mate Gary Neville was an executive producer of the Netflix documentary.

Neville recalled the way he and Beckham were “absolutely destroying teams” down the right flank for United.

“He was with his crossing. I was supporting him in a way which was to be fair, I would say I was a side dish really. Not the beef. I was the mustard on the side,” Neville said.

“I was subservient because I needed David to go and do something magical. He was practicing free-kicks and I was practicing throw-ins.”

Neville added: “It was telepathic on the pitch. Off the pitch as well, I knew where he was in his mind – it was not enough for him, he wanted to be more than a football player.”

James Ward-Prowse’s move to West Ham gives him a fresh chance to match a Premier League record set by David Beckham.

The former Southampton captain has scored 17 goals directly from free-kicks in the competition, just one behind the competition’s highest tally set by former England skipper Beckham in his Manchester United days.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at Ward-Prowse’s dead-ball record.

World-class

Former Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has called the England midfielder “for sure one of the best in the world in this part of the game” and Ward-Prowse has the free-kick numbers to back up that assessment.

Since his first Premier League season, the only player to score more free-kick goals in Europe’s “big five” leagues is a certain Lionel Messi – albeit with a distant 35 – and Ward-Prowse has accelerated in recent seasons.

Beckham’s record Premier League tally also includes a single season high of five in 2000-01 – matched the following season by Newcastle’s Laurent Robert – and though Ward-Prowse has yet to match that mark he has twice finished within one.

He was not an immediate set-piece contributor, scoring two free-kicks in his first four Premier League seasons – both against West Brom, at home in January 2016 and at the Hawthorns in February 2018.

He scored two a week apart in March 2019, at Old Trafford and then at home to Tottenham, to signal the start of his emergence and then netted home and away against Watford in the 2019-20 season.

His first run at Beckham and Robert’s season record came in 2020-21, sparked by two free-kick goals in the same game away to Aston Villa on November 1. He scored similar goals against both Beckham and Robert’s former clubs, home to Manchester United later in November and at St James’ Park in February, but was unable to find another to match their record.

The following season brought another near miss as he scored at Crystal Palace in December, Wolves in January and Leeds and Brighton in April.

Fulham, Everton and Chelsea were on the receiving end of his trademark strikes last term and the Hammers have given him the chance to add the one he still needs to match Beckham.

On the road

The widespread perception in football may be that home teams are more likely to benefit from referees’ decisions but Ward-Prowse, like Beckham before him, has scored the majority of his free-kicks away from home.

Indeed, just four came at St Mary’s – only one more free-kick than Beckham scored at Southampton in his Premier League career, though two of his three came at their former home the Dell.

Beckham also scored two against each of Leicester, West Ham and Everton, while Ward-Prowse has made West Brom, Watford, Villa and Manchester United repeat victims.

Ward-Prowse has 49 Premier League goals in total from 343 appearances, also including 13 penalties, with the remaining 19 coming from open play.

Beckham’s overall Premier League record was 62 goals in 265 games, with just two spot-kicks along the way.

Beckham and Ward-Prowse are well clear of their nearest competition, with the third-placed total of 12 shared by Gianfranco Zola, Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The other players to reach double figures for Premier League free-kick goals are Robert and Sebastian Larsson, with 11 each, and Ian Harte and Morten Gamst Pedersen with 10.

Lucas Leiva hopes his former Liverpool and Gremio team-mate Luis Suarez will resist the urge to follow Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba to Inter Miami.

Liverpool and Barcelona great Suarez joined Gremio in January, having helped his boyhood club Nacional to the Uruguayan Primera Division title on his return to South America last year.

Suarez has scored four goals in 12 appearances in the Brazilian top flight this campaign, but his future is in doubt amid reports he is Miami's next big-name target. 

Miami have already signed Suarez's former Barca team-mates Messi, Busquets and Alba, and Sunday brought confirmation they had traded with the San Jose Earthquakes to gain another international registration slot.

That move has heightened speculation regarding a move for Suarez, and while Lucas understands the draw of MLS, he hopes Gremio can keep the striker.

Asked about Suarez's future, Lucas – who retired in March after being diagnosed with a heart issue – said: "He made a fantastic impact here in Brazil at Gremio. 

"I think made the right move. Luis is a world-class player, we don't need to speak about his qualities and what he's doing here in Brazil. 

"He's been linked, but I just hope he can stay at Gremio because it's my club and he's my neighbour here!

"I hope he stays a bit longer but MLS is getting attention from every player and from the fans. It's normal that he will be linked with big teams like Inter Miami."

After Messi marked his Miami debut with a dramatic free-kick winner against Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup, there has arguably never been a more compelling time to follow MLS.

Lucas is among those excited by the league's potential, adding: "MLS is growing every year, people are watching more MLS. If you look back maybe 10 years, nobody would have expected that. 

"Americans know how to do these things, so well done to them. Messi going there will just attract a lot of fans and people who will be following the league, so it's great.

"It's great because football should be everywhere in the world because it is a fantastic sport that people love to watch. 

"We can see him in another league, not in Europe. In America, it's a great thing for the fans that love football. It's a league that is improving and is growing and getting better every season."

Lionel Messi began his Inter Miami career with a bang as the Argentinian magician ended his debut with a stunning free-kick winner against Cruz Azul deep in stoppage time.

Seven months on from lifting the World Cup, the eyes of the footballing world were trained on Florida as the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner made his eagerly anticipated first appearance.

Messi’s Miami debut has been years in the making and proved well worth the wait.

After Robert Taylor’s excellent opener was cancelled out by Uriel Antuna, the 36-year-old struck at the death to send DRV PNK Stadium delirious and seal an unforgettable 2-1 Leagues Cup win.

It was the dream end to an evening that attracted fans of all ages in ‘Messi 10’ shirts, with stars like LeBron James, Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian and, of course, David Beckham among those in the sold-out, expectant crowd.

The proud Miami co-owner watched on from a box next to the dugout, where the early exchanges made for uncomfortable viewing as Miami looked every bit the Eastern Conference’s bottom side.

Inter rode out that early storm and took the lead just before the break as Taylor’s exquisite low strike went in off the post to Messi’s delight.

The forward was cheered throughout and received a rapturous reception when brought on in the 54th minute, taking the armband as Sergio Busquets also came on for his debut.

Jordi Alba has also signed up to join their former Barcelona boss Tata Martino in Miami, but there remains work to do and that was clear as Cruz Azul deservedly levelled through Antuna.

The Mexicans could easily have won it as the clock wound down, but this was Messi’s night.

The 36-year-old won a free-kick deep in stoppage time and there was an air of inevitability before he sent the resulting set piece into the top left-hand corner as fireworks filled the air.

This was a huge moment for Major League Soccer and momentous night for North American football, 48 years on from Pele’s New York Cosmos bow and 16 years to the day since Beckham made his LA Galaxy debut.

Messi’s name was chanted by excited fans through a match that the hosts began in ragged fashion as Cruz Azul toyed with the hosts. Carlos Rotondi sent an early effort off the post during that early barrage.

Miami offered precious little in return but – following a break to deal with Ian Fray’s nasty-looking injury – a moment of magic lit up the game.

Robbie Robinson’s diagonal pass found Taylor high and wide on the left, with the Finland international cutting inside, making space and slamming a low right-footed shot in off the far post.

Messi was on his feet celebrating and soon gearing to come on, with the big moment eventually arriving in the 54th minute.

Benjamin Cremaschi made way as the Argentina skipper jogged on to a huge roar and took the captain’s armband. Former Barca team-mate Busquets and Josef Martinez joined him as part of an exciting triple substitutions.

There was an electric atmosphere whenever Messi touched the ball but the Mexican visitors were still making opportunities and drew level in the 65th minute.

Antuna collected the ball in a dangerous and Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender was unable to deal with his drilled strike.

Messi showed flashes of quality, skill and poise as play swung from end to end with both sides seeking a winner.

Ignacio Rivero was denied Callender and there were a few hairy moments as this helter-skelter clash continued, with Messi threaded through by Busquets only to see a shot blocked.

Martinez looked to have won it but Messi had strayed well offside before passing it and at the other end Christian Tabo was brilliantly stopped by Callender.

Play was set to end in a penalty shoot-out but Messi had other ideas.

Fouled by Carlos Salcedo, it set up the chance for an unforgettable finish and the debutant delivered a thrilling final blow.

Hristo Stoichkov is reluctant to compare Lionel Messi's arrival in MLS with that of David Beckham, as he hailed the Argentine's "spectacular" impending impact.

Messi was officially unveiled as a new Inter Miami player on Sunday, having confirmed his intention to join the MLS side as a free agent in June, following his departure from Paris Saint-Germain.

He will be joined by ex-Barcelona team-mate Sergio Busquets, while Jordi Alba could yet follow the duo to Florida.

Miami are part-owned by Beckham, who himself made the switch from Europe to MLS back in 2003, when he joined LA Galaxy from Real Madrid.

Former Barcelona star Stoichkov, who also spent time in MLS with Chicago Fire and D.C. United, does not believe the two transfers can be compared, however.

He told Stats Perform: "They cannot be compared. I never liked doing it, because those are different times.

"Since 1996, when players began to arrive [in MLS], like Marco Etcheverry, Carlos Valderrama, Lothar Matthaus, later Jorge Campos, Cuauhtemoc Blanco and many Mexicans like Pavel Pardo.

"Then came [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, David Villa and David Beckham.

"But they are all different, I don't like to compare because each one lived their moment.

"It was incredible that despite the rain there were 25 thousand people waiting to see that moment, the arrival of Leo Messi and Sergio Busquets and [it is incredible] that we are going to see them playing in Florida."

Stoichkov is sure Messi will have a huge impact in MLS.

"It's a big thing," he added. "Since I played in MLS, it has always grown and moved forward.

"Don Garber has done an excellent job since 1999 when he became the commissioner of MLS and he continues to give everything to this great league.

"I remember when I was unveiled in 2000, with Matthaus, and it was amazing that we came from Europe and many years later players continue to arrive.

"Before it had been [Johan] Cruyff, [Franz] Beckenbauer, George Best, Pele and from there MLS began to grow."

While Miami are struggling in MLS this season, the city itself has enjoyed a fine year from a sporting perspective, with the Miami Heat making the NBA Finals and the Florida Panthers reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.

"Before, Miami was a tourist city and everyone wanted to come and see it, but that [sporting recognition] is more the case now," Stoichkov continued.

"I believe that with the arrival of Messi, Busquets, Jordi Alba and other important players, this city will be much more recognised around the world.

"This is a path that has been thought through a lot and I am very grateful for the efforts of Beckham and [Miami managing owner] Jorge Mas, who have promoted this project for Inter Miami.

"Many people who have come on vacation will now return to see if they can find Messi in a restaurant, in a supermarket or having a coffee.

"I have known Leo for a long time, since he was 12 or 13 years old and I was at Barcelona, and nothing has changed.

"He continues to be humble, affectionate and has returned that affection to children by taking photos and signing autographs. This adds a lot to MLS and Inter Miami.

"The impact will be spectacular, just by seeing that the tickets for the games where Messi will play are already sold out. This is because a legend has come, someone who has won everything in his sports career.

"Despite all this, the most important thing is his humility."

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