Home Sports What we learned from the new Messi doc, and predictions for Inter Miami

What we learned from the new Messi doc, and predictions for Inter Miami

What we learned from the new Messi doc, and predictions for Inter Miami


Each week, Luis Miguel Echegaray discusses the latest from the soccer world. From standout performances and what you might have missed to what to keep an eye on in the coming days, LME has a few things to say. This week, a review of the new Lionel Messi documentary series, a look at MLS‘ new season, Bayern Munich and more!

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)


What we learned from Apple’s new documentary on Messi’s World Cup

Apple’s new documentary “Messi’s World Cup: The Rise of a Legend,” which tracks Messi’s career including his five FIFA World Cup appearances and ends with Qatar 2022 when Argentina lifted their coveted World Cup trophy (third in total for the country), debuts Wednesday. I watched the four-part series in advance and highlight the biggest takeaways from the project, but first some overview and background on what to expect.

From Gary Lineker to Andrés Cantor, journalists Sofi Martínez and Gastón Edul, and Argentina fans, we get to see a full picture of Messi’s journey through various voices. Several past and present members of the Argentina squad make cameos, including manager Lionel Scaloni and teammates Enzo Fernández, Emiliano “Dibu” Martínez, Rodrigo De Paul, Sergio “Kun” Aguero and many more.

When thinking about Messi’s relationship with Argentina, it’s important to remember that it wasn’t always peachy. For large parts of his journey it was quite the opposite, as many Argentinians resented him for leaving the country in 2001 at 11 years old to join Barcelona’s academy system and didn’t even consider him “Argentinian enough.” They thought he didn’t care enough about his country of birth. After Argentina lost two Copa America finals to Chile and failed to win the World Cup, specifically in 2014, there was a genuine disdain of Messi, who was also unfairly compared to Diego Maradona, despite their journeys and personalities being completely different.

It’s also worth mentioning that Messi retired after the 2016 Copa America, further souring the relationship between the player, fans and the Argentina FA.

But people didn’t realize that this was one of the worst moments in Messi’s life, too. “He suffered more than anyone,” said Aguero. Also, one of the coaches in the Argentina camp said he found Messi sobbing uncontrollably after the 2016 Copa America final, further showing the pain Messi was going through at the time.

The doc goes back and forth in time, providing us with large portions of action, notably in Qatar, and shows us major highlights as well as their aftermath, including how the squad felt after the first loss to Saudi Arabia. There are also clips of Argentina’s training camp and even Messi relaxing in his room during his Qatari adventure.

All in all, it’s a powerful story about how a kid from Rosario went from being an undervalued talent to becoming a hero, a villain, and back to a hero again for his national team. The best part, however, is when you get to hear from Messi himself. We hear him talk about his failures and successes, and his own views on how long he has left in the game.

“As long as I’m physically healthy and my body is responding, I’m going to try and keep playing,” he says. “And then when the day comes that I no longer enjoy it, when I no longer enjoy the day-to-day, I think that will be the moment when I realize that I don’t have to keep going. For now, I still enjoy it so much, I enjoy it even more than before. I’ve had a long career, a lot of things have happened to me. I grew up so much both as a person and a player. Finishing my final year winning the World Cup would be a dream ending.”

Luckily for us, 2022 was not his final year.

After loss to Saudi Arabia, everyone was freaking out — except Messi

The loss to Saudi Arabia in the opener was astonishing. Messi and Argentina had lost to a team that had no business beating them. As La Albiceleste returned to the training camp, the mood was low.

“We ended up in a room talking about everything,” said De Paul. “And Leo was giving me a vibe that I wasn’t finding in anyone else. I know him so I know when he’s feeling OK and when he isn’t. And he was fine. He was the captain after all. And I was like, ‘I can’t let you down.'”

“We couldn’t be upset because we knew he was calm,” recalled Angel di María. “So why should I feel bad, why should I be like this when the greatest in history, our captain, is completely calm and is sending a message to 45 million Argentinians that this group won’t let them down.”

It’s a common thread with Messi. He has a poker face, and most people think it’s because he’s an introvert. And yes, this is somewhat true, but the main reason is because he is aware of his role as a leader. If he transmits calmness, then others will follow.

Messi’s incredible speech before the World Cup final

The final against France ended up being one of the greatest World Cup matches in history, and the doc chronicles Argentina’s mood right before it. On the bus to Lusail stadium, the team is full of energy, singing and chanting songs and embracing the euphoric emotions and anticipation of a chance at glory.

But as the bus continues to bounce with energy and everyone — including the coaching staff — jumps up and down, a quiet Messi sits, staring and reflecting out the window. He is taking it all in, moment by moment.

“Messi did an amazing speech,” says Dibu Martínez. “Talking about family and what it cost us to be at the World Cup. It made us cry to basically everyone. It was like a group of friends going on an adventure and reaching the end. He said, ‘Whatever happens, thank you for everything you have done for me.’ And he would say, ‘This is it, this is the one. We have to hold it.’

Oh, what I would give to see that speech.

An emotional ending

We all know the ending. Argentina won their third World Cup final in dramatic fashion and Messi solidified his status as the greatest. But as the documentary’s soundtrack plays The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and Messi lifts the World Cup trophy, Martínez reflects on the words Messi said to his teammates at the end of the game, perfectly describing his selflessness and ability to lead his team to glory.

“He said to us, ‘Thank you for making this dream come true, winning the World Cup,’ remembers Dibu. “And I just said to him, ‘You made mine, you know. Cause you were the one who made us win.'”

The camera follows Messi to his room after the celebrations and it’s the final words that get me.

“After all,” says Messi. “I’m just a kid from Rosario who loves to play ball.”

What does success look like for Messi, Inter Miami this season?

Since we’re talking about Messi, let’s move to the present as MLS kicks off its new season this Wednesday in South Florida when Inter Miami take on Real Salt Lake at DRV PNK stadium. There are some issues going on right now with MLS and unionized officials, which I’ll get to below, so let’s use this “onside” to focus on the season as a whole and some predictions.

The noise will center around Messi, Luis Suárez and the former Barcelona cohort down in Fort Lauderdale, but as I have written before, I don’t see Inter Miami winning the Eastern conference, and that’s OK for manager Tata Martino because I think his top objective — aside from a good run in the Champions Cup — is to make the playoffs.

Anything after that is a bonus. To me, the team to beat in the East remains the defending champions Columbus Crew, who kept their squad intact in the offseason and most importantly, their leader and manager Wilfried Nancy stayed.

Another team to watch is Orlando City, who signed Colombian striker Luis Muriel from Atalanta. And what about Atlanta United? They made some key, albeit not eye-catching, signings. If you want to win MLS Cup, it’s about longevity, not vibes. Thiago Almada is still around and Giorgos Giakoumakis, who last year won MLS Newcomer of the Year, is going to light it up.

In the west, LAFC — last year’s finalists — have some work to do, mainly as it involves exits and arrivals and a re-transformation of certain positions. Hugo Lloris is their new starting goalkeeper, but the situation of Carlos Vela — who is out of contract — remains in question-mark mode.

Seattle Sounders, by the way, look strong. They have squad depth and even though they said goodbye to Nico Lodeiro, they made a great signing in Pedro de la Vega, a 23-year-old versatile attacker who comes from Lanús.


MLS’ referee lockout

There’s a referee lockout because in MLS after the officials’ union, the Professional Soccer Referees Association, rejected a tentative contract with the Professional Referee Organization, which is responsible for providing match officials to MLS, NWSL and USL.

“The skyrocketing growth of MLS has significantly increased demands on officials mentally and physically, and as such has increased demands on both our professional and personal time,” union president Peter Manikowski said in a statement. “Our members are asking not only for fair compensation at a time when the league is reporting record growth, but also for the ability to take care of themselves on the road and at home to continue officiating at the highest level that this sport demands.

“Feedback from our members indicates the failed ratification was driven by issues with the compensation and benefits PRO was offering, as well as a lack of improvements to travel, scheduling and other quality-of-life issues.”

So now Messi and Inter Miami will be opening the league season with replacement referees, something that also happened in 2014 until the issue was resolved two weeks into the season.

It’s a shame there couldn’t be some resolution. Everyone has been looking at the shiny thing in the corner (Messi), but after everything is said and done, a league can function only when everything, and I mean everything, works in collective harmony.

More on this right here from my colleague Jeff Carlisle.

Bayern, Bayern, Bayern

Bayern Munich are imploding and it’s incredible to watch, mainly because some of these wounds have been self-inflicted. It’s been almost a year since the Bavarians fired manager Julian Nagelsmann for basically — and I am not embellishing here — nothing. At the time, Bayern were a point off the top of the Bundesliga with only three losses and in the quarterfinals of the Champions League against Man City after seven clean sheets in their past eight European encounters.

Thomas Tuchel came in, and by the end of the season, Bayern had won their 11th straight league title, but it came in the most dramatic of ways, on goal difference.

So as we fast-forward to the present: Bayern and Harry Kane have recently suffered their third straight loss in all competitions and are now eight points behind the impressive Bayer Leverkusen. For now, Tuchel has his job, but that could change after this weekend when they face RB Leipzig.

“It feels like a horror movie that is not ending. Everything is going against us at the moment,” said Bayern midfielder Leon Goretzka after their loss at the weekend.

Horror movie, you say, Leon? I totally agree because for Kane, his continued quest for a trophy might once again end in misery. The England international joined the perennial German champions from Tottenham for a record £100million fee last summer in hopes of ending his trophy drought, one that that lasted 14 years in north London despite all the individual accolades he received. Now, eliminated from the German Cup, trailing in the Bundesliga title race and 1-0 down after the first leg of their Champions League tie, Bayern are on course to be trophyless for the first time since 2012 while Kane faces yet another season without silverware.

Final word

Just a quick one on Kylian Mbappé and his imminent move (please, let it be so, for all our sakes) to Real Madrid. I think PSG fans should see the Mbappé exit as a glass-half-full situation. They will be able to save €200m every year, fully cultivate their youth academy, which has tremendous talent, sign one or two stars who will demand less cost and begin to focus on the squad and not the individual.


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