Recent reports suggest that Lionel Messi's time at Inter Miami is being viewed as underwhelming by fans of the club and here are three reasons why.
Eight-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is attracting negative press regarding his time at Inter Miami with several reports claiming some people at the club believing him to have had a "negative impact" since joining.
The Argentine joined the club in July and has significantly raised the profile of Inter Miami in world football, drawing the attention of the world to the club.
However, despite his 11 goals and five assists in 24 games for Inter Miami, there have still been some negative effects of his presence and here are three reasons for that.
18:35 - 11.11.2023
Lionel Messi returned in a 2-1 loss to present the 8th Ballon d’Or as Inter Miami suffers a loss to New York City.
3 reasons Lionel Messi is considered a flop at Inter Miami
1. The globalisation of Inter Miami
Lionel Messi's role in helping Inter Miami become a global brand cannot be understated, it has played out just as club owner David Beckham had envisaged when the move was made.
Tickets are sold out at ridiculous speed and celebrities are lining up to come get a glimpse of the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner which is of course a good thing for the club.
On the other hand though, the globalisation of Inter Miami has also left their core fans behind. The main set of fans who supported the club through thick and thin in the early stages of Beckham's project and endured Phil Neville's horrible brand of football and Gonzalo Higuain's overweight presence as their best chance of a goal now feel alienated.
"It’s gone from a family atmosphere to a professional atmosphere, which you’d expect. We were a young club and we grew up overnight,” said Mike Longin of the Green Lot Gang supporters’ group.
Longin spoke to the Guardian on the changes Messi's presence has brought to the life of an average Inter Miami supporter who does not feel that connection to him.
Fans will face an uphill battle to watch their clubs as tickets are now scarce and ridiculously expensive all due to the presence of Messi.
This is of course no fault of the Argentine maestro who himself is (to borrow the words of DJ Khaled) suffering from success but they are also valid concerns held by real fans of Inter Miami and are worth addressing.
2. Unrealistically high expectations
Lionel Messi recently got some flak on social media for not making it into the Major League Soccer Team of The Season for 2023 which is another perfect example of how fans set him up for failure with unrealistic expectations.
Messi only played six of Inter Miami's 34 MLS games in 2023, returning one goal and two assists simply because he joined the club at the tail end of the season.
No other player would have been expected to make a Team of The Season under those conditions but the rules are different for Messi. Bear in mind no Inter Miami player made the least at all.
That is because Inter Miami finished the 2023 MLS season second from bottom in the Eastern Conference and with the third-worst record in all of the league.
And despite the fact that the team had sucked for the vast majority of the season, Messi is still expected to work wonders within the final six games of the season which he did but in a different capacity.
Messi scored 10 goals in seven games en route to winning the 2023 MLS Leagues Cup which was the first trophy in Inter Miami's four-year history. So in a way, he sort of set the pace for these unrealistic expectations.
Longin spoke on behalf of his fellow Inter Miami fans and addressed this particular situation, "We’re four years old and we’ve got a trophy now. I am very happy with where we are. I have friends who are not. They expected more. They expected him to play every game and go destroy the league."
Knowing Messi, he may still "destroy the league" in 2024 as expected but fans of the club need to bear in mind that ultimately they signed a 36-year-old Messi who is in Miami to relax after completing football more than anything else.
3. Inter Miami is losing its identity
Another major grouse fans of Inter Miami have with Messi is that he has unconsciously and unintentionally taken over the identity of the club just by being there.
At this point, Messi doesn't play for Inter Miami, Messi is Inter Miami which is not a good look for the club especially since his playing days are numbered anyway.
Longin opines that Messi's arrival "has had a somewhat negative impact on the match experience because so many people are only there to see Messi; they don’t care about the rest of the team."
Inter Miami were bad before Messi joined, losing almost every game before a ball was even kicked but at least they lost together as a team, now it's just Messi, his friends (Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets) and the other guys.
Longin continued, "When he’s not playing and he’s in his box in the stand, people are jumping over chairs to try and see him. We knew things would change. But we weren’t prepared for how much it would change and how much it would feel different."
"Messi didn’t play our last home game, and it was kind of nice to feel like this was the old stadium, this was the old tailgate. It kind of felt normal, and then Messi walked into his box, and it was, ‘OK, Messi is here. This is the new normal,’” said Longin.
The feelings of the real Inter Miami fans are valid in this case because they know that all that comes with Messi is temporal, the new fans are only there to see him and when he stops playing, they will be left with their club again.