Lionel Messi, The football maestro has been bestowed with the esteemed title of TIME’s Athlete of the Year for 2023, marking a momentous occasion not only for the man himself but for the sport of soccer globally.
Inter Miami’s Triumph: A Debut to Remember
Messi’s awe-inspiring debut season with Inter Miami, commencing in July, proved to be nothing short of spectacular, as his immediate impact played a pivotal role in securing Miami’s first-ever trophy – the Leagues Cup. This remarkable journey saw Messi exhibiting his scoring prowess by netting an impressive tally of 10 goals in seven games, guiding Miami to a triumphant victory.
Goal Scorer Extraordinaire
Beyond clinching the Leagues Cup, Messi’s influence was further demonstrated in Miami’s bid for the US Open Cup. Despite an unfortunate injury sidelining him for the final against Houston Dynamo, his earlier contributions underscored his invaluable presence on the pitch. Messi’s goal tally for his first campaign Stateside reached an impressive 11 goals in 14 games, contributing to Miami’s near-miss in the late dash to the MLS playoffs.
Messi Mania Sweeps America
Messi’s impact extended beyond the field, captivating the hearts of American soccer enthusiasts. The demand for his Miami jersey reached unprecedented levels, with even co-owner David Beckham waiting patiently for his own coveted piece of memorabilia. This fervor marked a true testament to Messi’s global appeal and his ability to transcend geographical and cultural boundaries.
TIME’s Recognition: A Soccer Milestone
TIME’s decision to crown Messi as the Athlete of the Year holds significant weight, as it acknowledges the profound influence of his exceptional performance in US soccer. This recognition is particularly noteworthy as Messi becomes the first individual soccer player ever to receive this prestigious accolade, placing him in the distinguished company of past winners such as the US Women’s National Team, LeBron James, Simone Biles, and Aaron Judge.
A Year of Triumphs: Ballon d’Or and World Cup Glory
Messi’s Athlete of the Year award is the latest addition to an already extraordinary year. Prior to this honor, he secured his eighth Ballon d’Or in October, capping off a remarkable season that began with his instrumental role in leading Argentina to World Cup glory at the end of 2022. These accolades serve as a testament to Messi’s enduring excellence and unmatched contributions to the sport.
The Unforgettable Debut: A Beckham Perspective
Reflecting on Messi’s impactful debut, co-owner David Beckham shared his astonishment at the iconic moment when Messi sealed a victory over Cruz Azul with a stoppage-time free-kick. Beckham expressed that the significance of this moment went beyond the individual triumph; it was a crucial milestone for MLS and the future of soccer in America.
Lionel Messi’s Futsal Prowess: A Potential Transition from Football’s Apex
Lucas Tripodi, the Argentina international, believes that Lionel Messi would remain the epitome of excellence even if he were to transition from the traditional 11-a-side football to the dynamic world of futsal. While Messi has undoubtedly mastered the standard football pitch and the size five ball, the question arises: how would he fare in the fast-paced and highly creative realm of futsal?
When posed with this question, Tripodi shared his insights with FIFA’s official website. He expressed his belief that Messi would excel in futsal, drawing parallels to the legendary Juan Roman Riquelme of Boca Juniors. According to Tripodi, Messi would embody the essence of Riquelme’s finesse while adding an abundance of goals to his repertoire, making him the ultimate player in the futsal arena.
Delving into the broader perspective, Tripodi highlighted the developmental significance of futsal, particularly in South America where many youngsters grow up playing the sport. The emphasis on technical proficiency in futsal contributes to honing skills that could potentially be transferred to the larger football field. In response to whether top global football stars like Messi could adapt their skill set to futsal, Tripodi suggested that it might be more feasible for a futsal player to transition to 11-a-side football due to the tactical intricacies of futsal.
Elaborating on this point, he explained that futsal’s fast-paced and dynamic nature requires quick decision-making and superior positional sense, skills that are honed over years of practice. However, Tripodi acknowledged that exceptional players like Messi possess the innate ability to transition seamlessly, making decisions on par with or even surpassing those of seasoned futsal players. In essence, Tripodi sees Messi as a player with the adaptability and skill to excel in any footballing format, solidifying his status as a truly exceptional talent in the world of sports.
Looking Ahead: 2024 Season Preparations
As Messi prepares for his first full season with Miami in 2024, anticipation and excitement are palpable. Recent footage capturing Messi’s dedication to physical fitness showcased him engaging in rigorous workouts, including unique glute exercises, under the guidance of his wife’s personal trainer, Bret Contreras, a.k.a ‘The Glute Guy.’ These preparations highlight Messi’s commitment to making a lasting impact in the upcoming MLS season.
Messi’s transformative journey with Inter Miami in 2023 has not only left an indelible mark on American soccer but has also solidified his place in sporting history. The recognition as TIME’s Athlete of the Year serves as a fitting tribute to a year of unparalleled success, embodying Messi’s prowess, dedication, and the global resonance of the beautiful game he so brilliantly represents.