Wayne Rooney lauds Lionel Messi – but he faces huge task to move Inter Miami from the bottom of the MLS

Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney has heaped praise on Lionel Messi as the Argentine prepares to begin the latest phase of his career in the MLS.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner sent shockwaves through the football world last month by joining Inter Miami in the United States. Messi’s move to America comes after two seasons with PSG, where he won silverware but had mixed experiences with the fans.

Per CNN, the World Cup winner will earn $50-60 million per season with the Miami-based club. In addition, Messi will get revenue cuts from MLS’ TV rights deal with Apple TV, as well as Miami’s shirt sales through sponsor Adidas.

All this makes his move to North America very expensive overall. However, Lionel Messi is a price worth paying according to Wayne Rooney.

“It’s a great move obviously for the MLS. Commercially, I think it will be huge,” he told Sky Sports. “It will draw more interest in the game from different regions of the world – I’m sure it’ll do that as well because you’re getting arguably the best player to ever play the game.”

Aside from the financial boost, the DC United coach expects Messi to raise the bar in the MLS, too.

“I’m sure he’ll come here and want to be competitive. He will want to try and help Miami to climb up the table. So, I think not just fans, but coaches, players… I think everyone is excited to have him in the league.”

Lionel Messi may be the GOAT in the eyes of Wayne Rooney, but even he may have his work cut out to haul Inter Miami to silverware.

How are Inter Miami doing in the MLS?

The 2023 MLS regular season has been pretty brutal so far for Inter Miami. They currently sit 15th – otherwise known as bottom – of the Eastern Conference with 18 points.

This puts them eight points adrift of a spot in Autumn’s MLS Cup Play-offs, although Miami still has 13 matches left in which to play catch-up.

The team has suffered with a league-leading 13 losses in 2023. So, if they want to reach the post-season, Messi will need to have an immediate impact on the win column.

Meanwhile, when it comes to their whole-league placing in the Supporters’ Shield, Inter are second-last. Only the Western Conference’s Colorado Rapids are behind the Florida squad.  

There are other competitions where Lionel Messi could make a difference, however. Inter Miami are through to the semi-finals of the US Open Cup, where they face FC Cincinnati. Both newcomers to the MLS will be desperate to reach the Final for a chance at silverware as a result.

Finally, the Argentine’s new club soon start their 2023 Leagues Cup campaign. Here, teams from the MLS and Liga MX compete in groups before a knockout competition. Inter Miami have fellow US side Atlanta United and Mexico’s Cruz Azul in their three-team group.

In particular, the game against Cruz Azul is one for football fans’ diaries, as this is Lionel Messi’s debut game for Inter Miami.

Can he lead the club to trophies, just as he has elsewhere? We will have to wait until 21 July before seeing which version of Leo Messi the MLS gets.

Featured image credit: Getty