Lionel Messi, aged 36, netted two goals in the first half and assisted another in the second, guiding Inter Miami to a resounding 4-0 victory over Atlanta United in his inaugural start for the team.
Following his impactful debut as a substitute, where he scored a thrilling winning goal on Friday night, the Argentine World Cup champion seamlessly transitioned into his first starting role with the MLS side.
The new captain of the team received a beautiful pass from his former teammate Sergio Busquets, who used to play for Barcelona. After initially hitting the post, the captain scored on his own rebound, causing the home crowd to cheer with approval.
In the 22nd minute, Lionel Messi scored a second goal by converting a driven cross from his teammate Robert Taylor, who also scored two goals on a hot night in Miami. After scoring, Messi stopped and pointed towards the team co-owner David Beckham, who was watching the game.
This gesture was met with a big smile from Beckham, who had played for Manchester United and played a key role in convincing Messi to join the MLS despite a lucrative offer from Saudi Arabia.
Atlanta had a late opportunity to score when Thiago Almada took a penalty kick, but Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender anticipated it well and prevented a goal, maintaining a clean sheet. After being substituted in the 78th minute, Messi and his fellow Argentine Almada embraced and exchanged shirts.
Miami’s victory in this match secured their group win in the Leagues Cup tournament, a competition that includes all teams from MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX, and follows a World Cup format.