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Miami, June 21 – Lionel Messi will likely make his debut for Inter Miami in a Leagues Cup match against Mexico’s Cruz Azul on July 21, the US Major League club’s co-owner Jorge Mas said.
The announcement came almost two weeks after Messi announced he was leaving Paris Saint-Germain to join the Florida outfit, which is also partly owned by former England captain David Beckham, reports Xinhua.
The 35-year-old’s first game will be played at the DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, which is undergoing redevelopment work to increase its capacity and improve security.
According to widespread media reports, Messi has agreed to a two-and-a-half year deal with an option to extend for another season. He will reportedly earn between 50 and 60 million U.S. dollars a year.
“Absolutely no changes in the roster rules,” Mas told the Miami Herald. “There are no categories or anything that is being changed to incorporate Lionel Messi onto Inter Miami’s squad.”
Mas predicted that the World Cup winner’s arrival would change football forever in the United States.
“I think there will always be a before and after Messi when we talk about the sport in the United States,” Mas said. “I have a very, very strong held belief that we can create in North America and the United States if not the greatest league, one of the top two leagues in the world. I cannot over emphasize the magnitude of this announcement.”
According to media reports, Inter Miami are set to appoint Messi’s former Barcelona and Argentina national team boss Gerardo Martino as the team’s new manager.
Club representatives are also understood to be in talks with midfielder Sergio Busquets, Messi’s former Barcelona teammate who is a free agent after leaving the Catalan club earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Mas revealed the club hopes to begin construction work on a new stadium, Miami Freedom Park, in the coming weeks with a view to inaugurating the venue in 2025.