D.C. United boss Wayne Rooney holds Lionel Messi debut hope after seeing ‘the best player to ever play the game’ join the MLS ranks at Inter Miami

Lionel Messi Wayne RooneyGetty/GOAL
  • Argentine heading to the United States
  • Expected to arrive in early July
  • Man Utd & England legend in Washington

WHAT HAPPENED? The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has revealed that he will be heading to the United States as a free agent once his contract at Paris Saint-Germain comes to an end. Messi is expected to make his way to Florida in early July, but it remains to be seen whether he will be thrown straight in by a struggling side crying out for inspiration. Inter Miami are due to face D.C United in Washington on July 8, with Manchester United and England legend Rooney eager to see Messi figure in that contest.

WHAT THEY SAID: Rooney told reporters: “It'd be nice if we were his first opponents for D.C. fans to see him up close and for us to challenge ourselves against him. One thing I will say – it’s not going to be easy for him. The league's a difficult league and I don't think he's going to come over here and absolutely tear it up immediately. He'll have to adapt because it's a bit different, it won't be an easy ride for him.”

Rooney added on the impact that Messi will make on the American game overall: “I think it's great, to bring Messi into the league. We've all seen, over the years, the impact of [Inter Miami co-owner] David Beckham coming in, [former LA Galaxy striker] Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] coming in. Different players from overseas. To get Messi in the league, arguably the greatest player of all time, and still – he’s a little bit older – but not long ago he won the World Cup almost single handed. It's going to be great for the league, for Miami.”

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THE BIGGER PICTURE: Rooney, who once played alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United, holds Messi in the highest regard and is delighted to see players of his stature heading to the States. He added on 2022 World Cup winner Messi: “He's the best. Simple as that. In my view he's the best player to ever play the game. That's how he's different. The fanbase around him will be huge, commercially, for the league I'm sure it'll be huge as well. It's massive for MLS. With Messi coming here – I know MLS has always brought players in – but I think it'll do that again, and it shows MLS can compete. It shows it’s a league where people want to come and want to play and it's a huge first step.”



Wayne Rooney DC United 2022Getty Images

WHAT NEXT? A meeting with D.C. United is likely to come too soon for Messi, with it expected that he will make his Inter Miami bow in a Leagues Cup clash with Cruz Azul on July 21 – before then taking in his MLS bow a month later in a home date with Charlotte FC.