FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Lionel Messi has arrived.
After a month of anxious anticipation, Inter Miami CF on Sunday introduced new signing Messi to a sold-out crowd at DRV PNK Stadium. The Argentina soccer star had inked a multiyear contract with the club on Saturday, becoming the highest-profile signing to hit MLS since David Beckham joined LA Galaxy in 2007.
"I am very happy to have chosen to come to this city with my family, to have chosen this project, and I have no doubt that we are going to enjoy it very much," Messi said after his introduction. "We are going to have a good time, and great things are going to happen. Thank you very much, thank you all for this day.
"I can't wait to start training to compete. I feel the same desire I've always had to compete, to really want to win and to help it [Miami] continue to grow."
Beckham was the first star to join MLS in the prime of his career after spending most of it playing top-tier soccer in Europe. Now a co-owner of Inter Miami, Beckham addressed the gravity of this moment, which was a decade in the making.
"Ten years ago, I started my journey to build a new MLS team," Beckham said. "I said then, I dreamt of bringing the best players in the world to South Florida and to the great city to Miami. Players who shared our ambition to grow soccer in this country ... We are so happy that you are all here to celebrate this incredible moment.
"So please forgive me for feeling a little bit emotional tonight. It truly is a dream come true to welcome Lionel Messi to Inter Miami ... Bienvenido a La Familia."
On Monday, Messi sent a message thanking his fans for the festivities.
"I want to thank everyone for yesterday!. The rain made it different than planned but still everything was beautiful.
"Thank you to everyone who came, thank you very much for all the love and also to the artists who were there and despite the conditions sang spectacularly.
"See you on Friday again."
A two-hour weather delay stalled the event, with heavy rain pelting the stadium grounds and lightning illuminating the sky.
But no one was going to miss this. And the fans were treated to a double feature, as Messi's former Barcelona teammate Sergio Busquets also was introduced as an Inter Miami player after signing his deal to join the club on Sunday.
✨ Libertad para soñar ✨ pic.twitter.com/76PSDLcoK0— Inter Miami CF (@InterMiamiCF) July 16, 2023
Beckham was thrilled to bring the midfielder to South Florida.
"One of the most complete midfield players of his generation," he said of Busquets. "I am so proud for Sergio and his family to represent our club and our colors and reunite his partnership with Leo Messi."
Even as the on-field hosts, Melissa Ortiz and Tony Cherchi, attempted to move the show along, "Messi! Messi!" chants rang throughout the stadium -- loudly enough that Ortiz had to ask for silence. Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas acknowledged the weather shortly before introducing his club's new No. 10.
"Tonight, we're doing this Miami-style in the rain," Mas said. "This is holy water!"
Messi took the stage and briefly addressed the crowd before a tribute played on the video boards above the stadium. He was welcomed to the United States by a slew of A-list celebrities and athletes, including Stephen Curry, Tom Brady, Gloria and Emilio Estefan and DJ Khaled.
"The World Is Yours to Take" by Tears for Fears featuring Lil Baby blasted through the stadium speakers. One lyric sampled from the original song stood out:
"Everybody wants to rule the world."
Sure, Inter Miami is in last place in the MLS this season. Everyone might want to rule the world, but on this night, Mas, Beckham and more than 20,000 fans felt as if they actually do.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.