It’s no surprise that Lionel Messi will be inundated with shirt swap requests during his time at Inter Miami, especially after his spectacular performances on the pitch.
After his remarkable last-minute free-kick winner in his debut match against Cruz Azul on Friday, Messi made his first start at the DRV PNK Stadium and put on a masterclass.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner showed his brilliance once again by scoring two goals within 22 minutes and providing an assist for his teammate Robert Taylor, who also scored twice, leading Inter Miami to a resounding 4-0 victory over Atlanta United in the Leagues Cup.
With such outstanding displays, it’s certain that many players from opposing teams will be eager to get their hands on Messi’s jersey as a memento of sharing the field with one of football’s greatest players.
Indeed, Lionel Messi’s presence has had a transformative effect on Inter Miami, a team that was previously struggling. Despite being with the club for just two games after signing a two-and-a-half-year contract, ‘Messi Mania’ has taken over, not only among fans but also among opposition players.
While Messi may not be as inclined to engage in the tradition of shirt swapping, he has amassed quite the collection of jerseys over the years.
He has a reputation for making exceptions, particularly when it comes to his fellow Argentinian players.
As seen in the recent match against Atlanta, two of his compatriots play for the opposing team, and both were eager to get their hands on Messi’s shirt as a special memento from the game.
Such is the impact and aura of Lionel Messi that even his fellow professionals feel a strong desire to exchange shirts with him.
But it was 22-year-old Thiago Almada, a member of Argentina’s World Cup-winning squad, who got the memento.
Messi had hugged the former Velez Sarsfield starlet in the warm-up and embraced him again when he departed the pitch in the 78th minute.
Then, at the end of the game, the two shared another moment and swapped jerseys.
Leo 🤝 Thiago
A jersey swap to remember. 🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/ofgzJ60mTO
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 26, 2023
Messi headed down the tunnel with Almada’s shirt on his back but in footage broadcasted by Apple TV, he was approached by another Argentine.
Santi Sosa le pidió la camiseta a Messi, pero Leo ya se la había dado a Thiago Almada.
Él se la dejó igual.pic.twitter.com/hayVJDvPgA
— Mati (@matiasm_02) July 26, 2023
Santiago Sosa asked Messi for his top but he appeared to explain that he’d already gifted it Almada.
Still, Sosa removed his shirt and handed it to Messi, who remained polite and accepted it.
Messi has a good relationship with Almada and asked for information about the MLS, though the talented midfielder didn’t have it in him to give much away.
“He asked me about the league, wanted to know about the tournament, how the games were. But I was speechless,” Almada admitted, as perFansided.
“He went to a great club, and for sure, he will make Inter Miami grow a lot. People are crazy, he will enjoy it very much and be very well received.”
Lionel Messi’s impact at Inter Miami is not only evident on the pitch but also in shirt sales. His jerseys have been in incredibly high demand, with Adidas experiencing an “unprecedented” surge in orders.
The overwhelming demand has resulted in pre-ordered jerseys likely not arriving until October at the earliest.
As part of his lifetime contract with Adidas, Messi stands to earn a significant share of the revenue generated from all the shirts sold with his name on them.
Given his immense popularity and status as a footballing legend, it comes as no surprise that fans are rushing to get their hands on his Inter Miami jersey.
On the sporting front, Messi and Inter have progressed to the Leagues Cup round of 32, where they are set to face tough competition against Orlando City, Houston Dynamo, or Santos Laguna.
With Messi leading the way, there’s much excitement and anticipation for the team’s upcoming matches.