Lionel Messi is off to the races…
The 36-year-old Argentine professional footballer followed up his game-winning goal last week by netting two goals and logging an assist in Inter Miami CF’s 4-0 win over Atlanta United.
Messi and Sergio Busquets were officially in Inter Miami CF’s starting lineup Tuesday night at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the first time since joining the MLS side.
It didn’t take long for the former Barcelona teammates to make an impact, with Busquets lofting a perfect ball over Atlanta’s defense to Messi, who missed his first attempt but put back the rebound to give Miami a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute.
Messi added another goal on a counterattack in the 22nd minute to double the margin with an assist from Robert Taylor, who scored Miami’s third to give the team a 3-0 advantage at halftime of the Leagues Cup match.
Taylor scored the final goal for Miami after the break with an assist from Messi, who was substituted in the 78th minute to a rousing ovation from the home crowd.
Busquets left the game six minutes earlier and was replaced by Victor Ulloa.
“It was a good performance and I’m pleased we were able to make our fans happy. A very good game and we took another step in the right direction,” Miami manager Gerardo Martino said.
Miami swept its group and moved on to the round of 32 in the Leagues Cup, in which it will host an opponent to be determined.
Atlanta became the 100th club that Messi has scored against.
Busquets and Messi spent 13 years playing together in Barca‘s first team before Messi moved to Paris Saint-Germain in 2021, and they have remained close friends since their trophy-laden run at Camp Nou.
“So many years playing together, so it’s very easy to play with him,” Busquets said. “I’m so happy to be by his side.”
Messi and Busquets came on as substitutes in their debuts in a dramatic win over Cruz Azul on Friday that saw Messi win the game on the final kick.
Martino managed Messi and Busquets for a season at Barcelona and said after the match he wasn’t surprised to see them connect for the opening goal.
“These two players are so good at what they do, they create space,” Martino said.
“Since those two have gotten here, the spirit has changed,” Miami right-back DeAndre Yedlin said. “Obviously, guys are really excited. But I think just their presence gives everybody more confidence. And I think also the teams that we’re playing against now have a bit of fear in their eyes. When those two are on the field, you know you’re in for a tough game.”
Miami and Atlanta are currently playing in the inaugural Leagues Cup competition — a World Cup-style tournament between MLS and Liga MX sides. Messi could make his official debut in an MLS game at home against Charlotte on August 20.