MIAMI (TodayNews) is a combination of a hamburger and a drink called Lionel Messi. A huge sketch of a football star’s smiling face on a restaurant wall next to a viral meme from the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. A beer with a pink label in the color of the Inter Miami jersey he will be wearing.
Wherever you turn in Miami these days, something will remind you of the Argentine football legend’s arrival.
There’s no hiding the euphoria engendered by Messi in Miami as he begins a new phase of his Major League Soccer career in one of the most Hispanic cities in the US. But his arrival also brings a touch of sadness as fans know that at the age of 36, he is nearing the end of his career.
Messi announced on June 7 that he would play for Inter Miami. The move is expected to revitalize football in the United States and South Florida with one of the sport’s most famous figures. More than 100,000 Argentines live in Miami, which will host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
The seven-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, the world’s most prestigious individual award, spent two years with Paris Saint-Germain and is expected to make his Inter Miami debut against Mexican team Cruz Azul on July 21.
In his more than 17-year career with his country, Messi has scored more than 100 goals, including two against France in the 2022 World Cup final, which Argentina won on penalties.
“I love that he’s in Miami because my kids will be able to see him the same way I saw (another Argentine football star, Diego) Maradona,” said Maximiliano Alvarez, co-owner of the Fiorito restaurant, which has a giant mural on the wall. with the image of Messi. “It also makes me feel sad, nostalgic, because it looks like this is the beginning of his retirement.”
“Coming into this league is not the same as playing in a European league,” the Argentine businessman said.
Alvarez and his brother Christian painted the original mural of Messi’s face in a restaurant in 2018 when many people criticized the football star for his role in Argentina’s poor performance. His idea was to honor him and the resilience he brings by never giving up.
In 2021, they renovated a restaurant in Little Haiti in northeast Miami, adding another mural of Messi on the same wall, this time by Chilean-American artist Claudio Picasso.
On the walls of another restaurant called Kao Bar & Grill in the Hallandale Beach area north of Miami Beach, Messi’s meme “¡Andá pa’ alla bobo!” “Get in there you fool!” immortalized along with a giant drawing of a football star.
Angry after Argentina’s brutal victory over the Netherlands in the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Cup, Messi said those words to a Dutch player who passed by during an interview.
Messi, known for his calm and careful speech, repented in a comment that immediately went viral.
“Of course he regretted it… but it was left as a joke,” said Augusto Falopapas, the artist who painted the meme on the restaurant’s wall.
To the south, in the Wynwood neighborhood, an area near downtown Miami famous for its warehouse-turned-art galleries, other artists have painted murals of Messi. There are two giant images of the player, one with a smiling face, the other with a running face, as if in a game. And there are plans for more, including a 10-metre-tall (32-foot) mural of Messi kissing the World Cup in an open parking lot.
Messi’s arrival also affected breweries such as Prison Pals Brewing Co., which sells beer with Messi’s number 10. The can is pink with black lettering, a copy of Inter Miami’s colors.
Argentinean grill The Knife is offering Messi mojitos, and Hard Rock Cafe is launching a new “Messi Chicken Sandwich” made with the football star’s favorite Milanese. Messi t-shirts, trousers, hoodies and Messi water bottles will also be on sale.
“When we learned that he had decided to choose Miami as his home in South Florida, it was incredible for us,” said Elena Alvarez, vice president of global sales at Hard Rock International. “We are very, very grateful and we have him as a brand ambassador and we are launching (a new sandwich) at the same time he moves here.”
Not far from Miami Beach, Argentinian-Venezuelan singer-songwriter Ricardo Montaner’s Ragazzi cafe welcomes him back.
Messi was on holiday there after winning the Copa America with Argentina in 2021. The star caused an uproar at the restaurant when fans came to greet him, forcing the staff, including waiters and kitchen workers, to form a wall around him to protect him and allow him to go out to his car.
Now they want to give the football legend more privacy and are considering putting up curtains.
Emiliano Valdes, general manager of the café, said “He’s revolutionizing the whole city” and that Miami welcomes Messi “with open arms”.