Messi’s Inter Miami and Newell’s Old Boys draw 1-1 in the friendly

Lionel Messi remains centre of attraction after Inter Miami friendly

Lionel Messi returned to the starting lineup for Inter Miami in a 1-1 home tie against his Argentine boyhood club, Newell’s Old Boys.

It was an emotional encounter for the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner, who grew up supporting Old Boys and played for them from 1995 to 2000 before moving to Barcelona.

Messi was replaced in the 60th minute by 22-year-old American Lawson Sunderland, although he impressed home supporters before of the start of the 2024 MLS season, as well as Inter coach Gerardo Martino, with his performance.

“I spoke with him after the game, and he was fine.” “We had discussed playing between 45 and 60 minutes,” the Argentine coach explained.

The 36-year-old striker, who helped Argentina win the 2022 World Cup, has returned to Miami’s starting lineup after missing a friendly in Hong Kong earlier this month due to a groin ailment.

Messi came off the bench in a later Inter-Miami encounter in Japan, but he returned to the starting lineup for the MLS club’s last pre-season game and was in good health.

“I see Messi fully recovered,” Martino stated. “We take him gradually so that he is fully equipped for the (MLS season). I witnessed that on the field today, with the way he accelerated and came into the area.”

The 22-year-old Haitian attacker rose high over a defender to head home a beautiful corner kick from Finnish midfielder Robert Taylor.

In the 83rd minute, Newell’s equalized as Argentine midfielder Franco Martin Diaz sent a shot into the bottom right corner from the center of the box.

It was a big night for other Argentine players on Inter, including Martino.

“For many of us who have a very strong bond with Newell’s it was a special and nice game, a friendly to enjoy,” Martino said in a statement.

Mauricio Larriera, Newell’s coach, and the Old Boys thought similarly.

“Emotions had to be managed, something very important in these cases because ultimately it’s a football match,” Larriera went on to say.

“In the case of Lionel Messi, all the boys were happy and with that sense of Argentine belonging, it was necessary to dose and manage not only the energy but also the emotional part.”

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Inter Miami will meet Real Salt Lake in the MLS regular-season opener on Wednesday, following a global pre-season tour that saw the team battle with injuries but eventually gain confidence for the forthcoming season, Messi’s first full season with the Florida club.

“It was challenging. “From a football standpoint, it was not the best preseason,” Martino said. “Neither from a competitive standpoint, because we did not have a full team to play the amount of games we had… due to certain injuries.

“We were aiming more to come out of the pre-season unscathed, to have the squad come back relatively healthy.

“We’ve met the needs the club had and we have worked to the start of the season. I have high expectations of arriving well at the beginning of the competition.”

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