The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner and World Cup victor Lionel Messi is no stranger to displaying his medals in front of an audience. In the 2023 Ballon d’Or voting, the Argentine team defeated Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland. Following their historic and record-breaking eighth place finish, Lionel Messi’s team, Inter Miami, witnessed the same in a stunning ceremony.
Lionel Messi held the Ballon d’Or over his head as fireworks lit up the sky to bring a pregame ceremony to a close. And with that, Inter Miami CF got to celebrate the game’s greatest player one more time in 2023.
Messi was on the field for his Major League Soccer club on Friday night for a friendly against New York City FC, a match put together to commemorate his eighth time winning the Ballon d’Or, — presented annually to the game’s top player, at a black-tie ceremony in Paris last month. No other player has won that award more than five times.
Miami lost 2-1 despite Messi playing the entire game against NYCFC. For New York, Talles Magno and Julián Fernández scored goals. With ten minutes remaining, Robert Robinson, a replacement for Miami, gave the home team its lone goal.
Messi crossed the field to midfield on a gold carpet, holding the trophy in his left hand. MLS Commissioner Don Garber was among those waiting for Messi to arrive for a little pregame ceremony. As the stadium erupted, he gave Garber, Inter Miami owners Jorge and Jose Mas, an embrace before raising the trophy.
“It’s beautiful to share it with you all,” Messi said. “I’ve been here for a short time, but it seems like a long time.”
Here’s how big a deal the moment was: Even Garber pulled out his cell phone to take a picture of the moment.
“You, Inter Miami fans, have the best player who’s ever played the game,” Garber said. “The winner of his eighth Ballon d’Or, the guy who lifted as captain the Leagues Cup for your team, thank you Leo for your belief in Major League Soccer and making your club and your league a league of choice.”
It was the ideal way to cap off Messi’s first four months of official club membership: Year 1 began with an on-field celebration and concluded with a celebration that hinted at Year 2.
“He’s the main star of this match and we want to join him celebrating his eighth Ballon d’Or,” Inter Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said. “It’s an opportunity also for us to compete. Even if it’s a friendly it’s an opportunity for the people and the fans to see Leo and his teammates on the field and say goodbye to the year.”