A thunderstorm could do little to dampen the mood as Inter Miami's fans flocked to their stadium to witness Lionel Messi's grand unveiling as the club's newest addition.
Messi, a World Cup champion and seven-time Ballon d'Or winner, is joining a struggling club that currently holds one of the lowest positions in the US Major League Soccer (MLS) and has endured an 11-match winless streak.
The club had previously announced the details of Messi's contract, which spans two-and-a-half seasons and is valued at an annual salary between $50 million (€44.55 million) and $60 million, amounting to a total contract value of $125 million to $150 million in cash alone.
A torrential downpour delayed the start of the event, known as "The Unveil." Finally, after almost two hours the event commenced amidst the chants of excited fans and the dimming of lights in the venue.
During the ceremony, co-owner David Beckham expressed his joy, stating that Messi's arrival was a "dream come true."
"Tonight we are doing this in the rain… This is holy water!" the club's majority owner Jorge Mas said.
"This is our moment! Our moment to change the football landscape in this country," he added, before introducing Messi as "Your new number 10, America's number 10".
'Very happy to be in Miami'
Messi expressed gratitude to the fans for their support and the love they showed him, stating, "Thank you very much to all the people for supporting me and giving me this love. I am very happy to be here in Miami."
The event marked the completion of Inter Miami's ardent pursuit of the player, finally signing arguably the biggest star in the game.
The crowd also anticipated the potential Miami debut of Sergio Busquets, a Spanish midfielder and World Cup winner, who finalized his long-awaited signing with the club until 2025.
Busquets, who turned 35 on Sunday, and the 36-year-old Messi were teammates previously at Barcelona.
ss/lo (AFP, AP)