Anytime Lionel Messi plays football, he’s going to draw a crowd—even when that crowd crams into a hotel meeting room to simply hear what he has to say on the eve of the World Soccer Masters, an exhibition match to be played at Miami’s Sun Life stadium tomorrow night.
Ostensibly, it’s an exhibition match, but in the words of the event's promoter, Andres Gaviria, it's also a "new concept” which they hope to repeat on a yearly basis as a sort of “soccer all-star game.”
Still, it’s an opportunity for Messi’s legions of fans in Hispanic-heavy South Florida to see the Barcelona and Argentine prodigy.
Amongst the friends Messi has drawn to star in the game are Champions League-winning Didier Drogba, Inter Milan’s Diego Forlan and Javier Mascherano, a club and country teammate of Messi’s who said he feels “very fortunate to play with Leo, in what will be remembered as the 'Messi era.'”
Mascherano was also quick to praise the man who’s become the club’s new manager, saying of Tito Vilanueva, “Inside the locker room we always knew that Tito is a very important guy for the club.”
Dunga and Fabio Capello, the managers of the respective sides, were also present and in understandably good spirits given the talented names on their squad lists.
When Dunga was asked how many more world titles his nation might have won if Messi were Brazilian, the former Selecao captain and coach wisely retorted that Argentina also might have won more if Romario, Ronaldo and Pele were Argentinean.
Adversaries only a few months ago during the pulsating Champions League semifinal tie between Chelsea and Barcelona, a loss Mascherano admitted was his worst professional defeat, Drogba will be a teammates with the Barça defender on Dunga’s “Masters” team.
The “Stars” team coached by Capello will consist of (amongst others) Forlan, Radamel Falcao, Edinson Cavani and Clint Dempsey.
Some attention was spared for that other football event happening a continent away. While Capello deferred on picking between England and Italy in their quarterfinal matchup, he did make a forceful statement in favor of goal line technology.
Presumably referring to the goal Ukraine was denied against England, his most recent managerial post, the Italian demanded that these “non-goals” be eliminated from the game by introducing changes the European governing body is loathe to accept.
Messi, for his part, favors Spain to win the title. “I have a lot of friends and teammates there,” he said. And despite the distractions of a summer “break” filled with charity events, exhibition matches and World Cup qualifiers, the soft-spoken special one remains focused on matters of his close and distant future.
Speaking about the Argentinean national team, Leo said, “I think we’re on the right track, we’re getting better all the time.”
The World Cup is still two years away, the ideal stage to add a world championship to his growing legacy. The World Soccer Masters match is less than 24 hours away, a chance to raise money for a variety of charities, including Messi’s own, and a special occasion for more to witness the full range of his football brilliance.
Daniel Manichello is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained first-hand.
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