Welcome to Onside/Offside! Each week, Luis Miguel Echegaray discusses the latest from the football world, including standout performances, games you may have missed and what to keep an eye on in the days ahead.
This week, a look back at the first three episodes of Apple’s Messi Meets America docuseries as we reflect on a summer that was like that Lionel Messis monumental start at Inter Miami that rocked the American soccer landscape and ended with a historic League Cup victory. LME was there for everything, cover beforehandduring and after Messi’s arrival at Inter Miami, his debut and the Leagues Cup tournament for ESPN, which included, among others One-on-one exclusive with Messi. Here are his thoughts on the documentary.
Beckham on Messi’s influence in America
Featuring key voices within Inter Miami – from co-owner David Beckham to Jorge Mas to manager Tata Martino and the squad, including Messi himself – the first three episodes all focus on Messi’s arrival and the club’s incredible success in the League Cup Trophy , from what I can tell first hand, a ridiculous summer roller coaster ride. It would take 10 Taylor Swifts visiting Travis Kelce and the Chiefs to understand how big the months of July and August were in American sports media once Messi took over and arrived in Fort Lauderdale.
I think the series does a good job of chronicling the magnitude of the moment, but in the first episode, Beckham, who made his own Vulcan-like announcement in 2007 while standing for the LA Galaxy and thus changes the landscape of MLS forever, is particularly good at explaining what Messi’s arrival in America means for everyone, not just Inter Miami fans.
“We made this decision to bring Leo to Miami, not just for us, not just for our fans,” Beckham said. “But we did it for the league, we did it for the sport and we did it for America.”
Beckham: We wanted everything to be perfect for Messi at Inter Miami
Inter Miami’s co-owner describes the ‘incredible’ last few days since Lionel Messi decided to join the club.
Beckham was instrumental in Messi’s arrival. Not so much in the specific, logistical aspects (that was the job of Jorge Mas, who did a lot of preparatory work to make this possible), but rather in ensuring that Messi understood the environment in which he arrived.
“He guided me and told me a little about his experiences,” explains Messi in the first episode. “What it was like for him to come here and play. At the same time, when he made the decision, he told me that things are not the same now because the league has grown a lot since he arrived.”
Without Becks – in more ways than one – there would be no Messi in the MLS. Plain and simple.
Messi’s influence on the squad
This type of documentation is beneficial for personnel and squad access and shows how much Messi influenced the entire setup. I liked how many Inter Miami voices were strongly represented, including Tata Martino. There is a great scene where the Argentine coach did it Barcelonathree national teams and 2018 MLS Cup winner Atlanta United – enters the training facilities for the first time and the security guard asks him: “Who are you?” and Tata replies with a smile: “I’m the coach!”
Many first team players are represented including Sergio Busquets, Jordi Albaas well as recent academy graduates and Miami natives David Ruiz And Benjamin Cremaschi, who give us some really beautiful moments with their respective families and explain what it feels like to play alongside Messi. Particularly touching is the scene in which Cremaschi eats with his father Pablo, who played rugby for the Argentine national team.
However, my favorite is DeAndre Yedlin. Anyone who has interviewed Yedlin can tell you the same thing. He gives excellent stories and quotes. Throughout the series he explains in detail the importance of having Messi as a teammate.
“It’s an extra motivation to improve my game,” says Yedlin, speaking during scenes of Messi’s debut against Cruz Azul on July 21 at the DRV PNK Stadium. “How close can I get to Messi’s level? This is the pinnacle of the sport.”
Yedlin tells a great anecdote from that game when it was 1-1 and Messi got a free kick in stoppage time. “I went to the sideline and told Tata that my thigh muscles were cramping,” he recalls. “But Tata says, ‘Don’t worry. Leo will score that and then we’ll go in and it’ll be done.’ I thought, ‘Okay.'”
And that’s exactly what happened. The highlights of the Leagues Cup tournament seemed truly cinematic, almost unbelievable, until the final, which was won on penalties against Nashville. The documentary does a good job of reliving all of these moments and seeing how Inter Miami completely changed as a team after Messi’s arrival. It was a historic competition for the club, and as Beckham previously said in the documentary, it wasn’t just important for Inter Miami.
Messi and the Latino community
The first three episodes also do a good job of illustrating the community around the club, and that’s an important component, arguably the most important after Messi himself. We meet local business owners and soccer fans – from Dallas to Philadelphia – and explain what Messi’s arrival means to them . This is where the Latino audience is particularly important because for the Latin American community, particularly the immigrant Latino community in America, Messi is not just a superstar but a symbol of Latin American pride. It goes beyond the Argentines.
“Everyone here will want to hug Messi nonstop, all Hispanics, because we are all Messi,” said Ezequiel Sierra Núñez, a butcher at La Suprema Market Mexican restaurant in Frisco, Texas. Núnéz paid $800 to watch Messi play when Inter traveled to Miami FC Dallas on August 7th in the round of 16 of the League Cup. “One thousand [dollars] It wouldn’t do any good for me to see Messi,” he said.
“For people who are Argentinian or Latin American, Messi is a big symbol of our culture,” explains Eva Raggio, a reporter for the Dallas Observer. “If we had a Mount Rushmore, he would be there. There is this unifying factor, which is football and Messi “are immigrants from another country.”
Messi is making “Vice City” dreams come true with his move to Miami
Inter Miami fans and residents of the city can’t wait for Lionel Messi to take the field for their team.
It often feels like an advertising campaign
One of the problems with these types of documentary series projects – from All or Nothing to Welcome to Wrexham – is that it’s often impossible to escape the tempting desire to turn an honest story into an advertising campaign. And that happens sometimes here at Messi Meets America.
I mean, I understand. This is a product, it’s not just a series, and it needs to be maximized. But I think the best documentaries work when they show you all sides of the proverbial coin, when they peel the whole onion and tell you a human story. That’s why “Sunderland Til’ I Die” and Asif Kapadia’s “Maradona” work so well. Because they show the viewer the beautiful and the ugly side of this world, the happy and the painful, and in the end we are all what we are. None of us are perfect and documentaries need to reflect that.
In this particular scenario, I would have liked to have seen more behind-the-scenes moments from Messi’s first few weeks in Miami, especially with his wife Antonela Roccuzzo, who played a crucial role in this decision to come to South Florida.
Was she afraid of taking another step? Especially after the two years at PSG, things didn’t go according to plan. What about the children and how does the family deal with the overwhelming paparazzi and media attention? Are you ready for another move to a new country? Was anyone in MLS worried that Messi’s signing would have contributed too much – perhaps too much – to focusing solely on him, as he would have gotten far too much of the pie?
I would have liked to see intimate moments with Messi outside the club, from the training ground and during interviews. He is a composed, humble player who happens to be the greatest player the game has ever seen. But what is he like at home? I think a lot could have been done to show you the vulnerable aspects of this story.
Maybe we’ll see that in the next few episodes as the documentary delves into his injury-related absence, the lost US Open Cup and the club’s inability to reach the MLS playoffs. There are also questions about ticket sales for next season and how the price has doubled. What do Inter Miami’s loyal fans, who were there before Messi and will be there after, think about this? There’s a lot more to unpack.
What impact did Messi’s absence have on Inter Miami during the US Open Cup final?
Herculez Gomez analyzes Inter Miami’s 2-1 loss to Houston Dynamo in the US Open Cup final as Lionel Messi watches from the sidelines due to injury.
Wanted more from the Fort Lauderdale and Inter-Miami community
With that in mind, I wanted to see more of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, as this is a community, Fort Lauderdale in particular, that will be hugely impacted by Messi’s arrival.
Is there anyone there who doesn’t know who they are? Are there concerns about what happens if he doesn’t play? Are Inter Miami fans worried that Messi is now attracting the wrong type of fan, the one who is only here for Messi and nothing else?
What about ticket sales prices? The secondary market is one thing, but clubs certainly need to do more to ensure they don’t increase prices for just one player, even if it is Messi. That’s why I wrote this piece before he even arrived. It was important for me to learn about the community and how they felt about Messi’s introduction to South Florida. I think the documentary needs a little more of that too.
As mentioned in the introduction to this week’s column, we’ve covered Messi’s crazy summer extensively here at ESPN, and I was there to see it. The documentary illustrates what it meant to be there and see firsthand the incredible impact Messi had on America, not just Inter Miami.
Just before the League Cup, we spoke to the man himself about the move and his thoughts on MLS and the presence and growth of soccer in the US