Inter Miami ends preseason with draw vs. Messi's boyhood club Newell's


Messi has 3 attempts barely miss in friendly

Lionel Messi has three quality chances that can't find the back of the net during Inter Miami's friendly.

Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF closed out their tumultuous MLS preseason with a 1-1 draw against Messi's boyhood club, Newell's Old Boys on Thursday night.

It was the first time that the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner faced the club that both he and Inter Miami coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino grew up with as natives of Rosario, Argentina.

Messi played there as a child before leaving to play for Barcelona, where he rose to soccer stardom. Martino played and coached for the club and holds the record for most appearances in club history.

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With the stadium packed with fans excited to see Messi play, the 36-year-old star did not have much affect on the game. He missed a free kick in the first half, but looked healthy, surging forward and slicing through opponents with ease.

Messi had missed a Feb. 4 preseason win in Hong Kong because of nagging injuries. He stayed on the bench for the entire game with a groin injury as fans booed and demanded refunds.

Messi checked out of the game Thursday with Inter Miami's Luis Suárez in the 60th minute. That's when a young fan sprinted onto the field with his arms stretched toward Messi before being intercepted by security.

Martino said Messi felt fine after the match and is confident that he is recovering well as he ramps up for the start of the regular season.

Shanyder Borgelin put Inter Miami ahead 1-0 with a header in the 64th minute, and Newell's Franco Díaz tied it in the 83rd minute.

Messi's first MLS preseason was messy. Inter Miami set off on a global tour of exhibition games aimed at promotion and marketing, featuring Messi and the Uruguayan star Suárez. But the tour received mostly bad PR, as well as not-so-great results on the field.

Inter Miami was outscored 12-7 in its first five games before a win in Hong Kong. That victory was highly overshadowed by angry fans when neither Messi nor Suárez took the field.

Borgelin, the 22-year-old whose booming header came less than five minutes after he subbed into the game, said he felt the tough preseason made the team stronger and more prepared to attack an upcoming season that will be filled with high expectations.

"Obviously it's expected when you have the greatest player in the world," he said. "I think we're all ready and we're all called up to a big task. We're all on the field for a reason. And it's part of the game, the losses, everything that comes with it."

Inter Miami will now turn its attention to the 2024 regular season, hoping for better success after fizzling late last season. The club will host Real Salt Lake on Feb. 21.