Lionel Messi brought the curtain down on his first season in Major League Soccer in a special friendly to celebrate his record eighth Ballon d’Or.
The World Cup winner brought his Golden Ball out onto the pitch to show it off to fans ahead of a campaign-closing friendly with New York City FC – dubbed ‘Noche d’Or’, which translates to ‘Golden Evening’.
The night ended in disappointment at the DRV PNK Stadium, with David Beckham-backed Miami losing 2-1 and Messi failing to really make an impact on the pitch.
Tempers flared between the players, too, and the star man had a golden chance to equalise with a late-gasp free-kick in prime Messi territory, only to miss the target.
It was clear the night was really about the Argentine maestro, not the score, with Messi even wearing a specially re-designed Inter badge which replaces their flamingo mascots with two golden goats.
But the season has come to a close at the right time for Messi and co, who are now on a run of just one win from ten games.
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Messi enjoyed a stunning start to life in the United States, leading Miami to the club’s first ever piece of silverware in the America’s Cup just weeks after arriving from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer.
But injuries restricted his impact on the pitch, and the rest of the campaign did not go to plan, as they missed out on a place in the post-season play-offs and shot at the MLS Cup.
While everything Cristiano Ronaldo does in Saudi Arabia, good or bad, makes headline news on a weekly basis, Messi and Miami’s slump has gone under the radar in comparison.
But the all-time great vowed to bring more trophy success back to south Florida as he spoke to the sold-out crowd after the full-time whistle.
“We secured something very important – the first title for our club,” he said. “It was something very important because we were looking for it and we needed it.
“I didn’t have a doubt that we were going to enjoy and have a good time. Today I have no doubt, like I had in the beginning, that next year will be much better.
“We will continue to have fun and win more titles. I hope you’re with me. Next year we we have very important things and we need to do it together.”
Then, speaking directly to fans, Messi said: “It’s beautiful to share it with you all – I’ve been here for a short time but it seems like I’ve been here for a long time.
“I’d like to thank all of the people of Miami – not only the ones in the stadium but everyone here – for the treatment in these months.
“For myself and my family, they made us feel at home. It’s a city with a lot of Latinos and I feel comfortable.”