Lionel Messi stunned the sports world last month when he revealed he was inking a deal with David Beckham's Major League Soccer squad, passing on a $425 million deal from Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal team. The 35-year-old Argentinian footballer was ultimately drawn to Inter Miami via an enticing offer reportedly sweetened by revenue-sharing agreements with Apple, holder of the worldwide broadcast rights for MLS, and Adidas, the league's exclusive jersey supplier.
It appears Miami also had an ace in the hole — a chance for Messi to get the boys back together.
As Messi kicks off his stateside journey, several familiar faces have joined him on the field, including his former Barcelona coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino and two former teammates, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. A third former Messi teammate, Luis Suárez, has reportedly tried to jump ship to Inter Miami.
If all goes well, Messi, Busquets, and Alba could form a trio to match the dominance of the Miami Heat's "Big Three" of the early 2010s.
The on-the-field chemistry already appeared to be in full swing in Inter Miami's first game against Atlanta United in the Leagues Cup. About eight minutes into the match, Busquets booted a ball from midfield, which Messi picked up, bounced off the post, and then tapped in for a score. Messi scored a second goal, leading Miami to a 4-0 win, which clinched a spot for the team in the tournament's next round.
While Messi has indisputable status as an international soccer legend, the former Barcelona crew with whom he's now been reunited are not exactly household names among many South Floridians who range from casual fans to being completely oblivious to soccer goings-on.
For those yearning to bolster their fútbol bona fides, we've rounded up a brief rundown of Messi's reunited squad.
Considered one of the best defensive midfielders in the modern soccer age, the Catalonia-born 35-year-old played with Messi at Barcelona for 15 seasons.
Busquets has racked up nine La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey titles, and three UEFA Champions Leagues throughout his club career while being crowned European and World Cup Champion for his home country of Spain. He said he was retiring from international football following the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Unveiled as a new addition to Inter Miami player on July 16, Busquets' deal with the team runs through the 2025 season.
"I am excited to welcome Sergio Busquets to Inter Miami," managing owner Jorge Mas said in a press release. "Since day one, we have set out to bring the world's best players. Sergio's repertoire speaks for itself."
On July 20, Inter Miami officially signed the 34-year-old Spaniard, reuniting him with Busquets and Messi from their days at Barcelona.
Alba, who played 11 seasons for Barcelona and has been deemed one of the best left-backs of his generation, provided 23 assists to Messi throughout his career.
Known for the attacking side of his game, he has won five La Liga titles, five Copa del Rey titles, and one UEFA Champions League title at club level. He made 93 international appearances for Spain's national team and was part of its winning team for the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship and the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League.
In 2015, Alba, Busquets, and Messi won the European treble, achieved when a club team wins three trophies (their domestic league and cup titles, plus the UEFA Champions League) in a single season.
According to the Miami Herald, he made $24 million last season and will take a hefty pay cut at Inter Miami.
Inter Miami confirmed hiring Argentine Gerardo "Tata" Martino as its coach on June 28.
"Tata is a highly respected figure in our sport whose track record speaks for itself," Beckham said. "We are confident that his achievements in the game and experience as a head coach will inspire our team and excite our fans and look forward to seeing the impact he will have on and off the field."
Martino, who coached Messi at Barcelona during the 2013-2014 season and with Argentina's national team, led Atlanta United to an MLS championship in 2018 with current Inter Miami forward Josef Martínez as the main goal scorer. Having fallen short of a championship trophy with Messi at Barcelona and again at the helm of Argentina's national team, Martino will be looking to break that spell at Inter Miami.
He replaces Phil Neville, who was terminated as the team's manager last month following a four-game losing streak.