25 Aug Lionel Messi in MLS is a dream come true for American sports
Onside/Offside is back! Each week, Luis Miguel Echegaray discusses the latest from the soccer world, including standout performances, games you might have missed and what to keep an eye on in the coming days. This week, LME opines on Messi Mania, the Premier League’s ultimate underdog and the Luis Rubiales saga.
Messi and America: a match made in heaven
On Wednesday night, Lionel Messi conquered another piece of America. This time, it was FC Cincinnati as the Argentina superstar and Inter Miami CF earned a ticket to the U.S. Open Cup final — the oldest ongoing soccer competition in the country. This was days after lifting the Leagues Cup, the club’s first-ever trophy.
Wednesday’s game carried the same echoes we have heard ever since he played his first game for Miami on July 21 against Cruz Azul. “Messi, Messi, Messi,” chanted by both Miami and Cincy fans. Kids, adults, even the elderly (I personally witnessed three Ohio grandmothers inside the grounds at TQL Stadium) wearing his Argentina shirt.
Eight matches in 32 days. From Dallas to Philly, Cincy and back to South Florida, the national sentiment seems to align with something I feel extremely strongly about: Messi is the biggest arrival in American sports history, and when it’s all said and done, he will have been (along with Michael Jordan) the biggest star to have ever played here.
Because of his global recognition, by the time the World Cup comes to this country in 2026, I daresay he could even surpass Jordan. No, I am not comparing these athletes or conjuring a rivalry; I am simply saying the spectacle of Messi is that gargantuan.
And he hasn’t even played an MLS game yet.
Now, people will scoff at this. They will angrily comment, defending other athletes and other storylines, but I am simply not interested.
I have been covering his story since even before his arrival, talking to people from all over the country and seeing how this diminutive man is writing a new chapter of sports and culture in America. I keep getting texts and emails from friends who have never before cared about the game. I have interviewed folks from all corners of America and chatted to professional athletes and coaches from different institutions. I have talked to Messi himself and seen what’s orbiting around him.
Simply put, what’s happening now is spectacular.
Things will slow down at some point. It’s only natural for them to do so. After all, Messi will have to take a break; he already showed some fatigue this week, and I don’t even know if he will start on Saturday against the New York Red Bulls. Argentina will also require his services next month, and then there is the offseason.
But know this: the wave of Lionel Messi will stop only when he decides it stops. For the rest of us mere mortals? We can only hope to witness and enjoy its overwhelming force whenever it comes to town.
To Postecoglou: Premier League‘s ultimate underdog
When Ange Postecoglou was 4 or 5 years old, his father lost his business in Greece after the military coup in 1967, forcing his family to emigrate to Australia. After enduring a monthlong boat ride, they finally arrived at their new home.
“People sort of misinterpret the immigration story, you often hear, they say, ‘People immigrate to another country for a better life,’ and that’s not the story of what an immigrant is,” the Tottenham Hotspur manager has said. “An immigrant goes to another country to provide opportunities for the next generation.”
I can’t tell you how much I relate to this sentiment, but most importantly, this quote is the ethos Postecoglou lives by. His parents’ selfless sacrifice is something that is always with him. He owes everything to them, and in fact, his entire philosophy on the pitch is an homage to his immigrant story.
He has been quoted saying how he loves coaching teams that his father would appreciate: hungry, noble and not self-serving. Postecoglou is honest and confident without the weight of arrogance. His resiliency is born out of a fighting spirit that originated in that boat to Australia. He is football’s James J. Braddock, unable to turn his back on a challenge and always fighting with an unapologetically blue-collar mentality.
As a result, this now applies to Spurs, too.
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In a land of egos and self-serving machinations, I really like Postecoglou, who reminds us of the ultimate values of life through his management. While success with Tottenham depends largely on the boardroom and chairman Daniel Levy, make no mistake: I expect a fighting spirit from Spurs this season as every player will do everything in their power to live up to the manager’s values and huge expectations.
Postecoglou is a fighter, but he is also a believer in empathy, hard work and dedication; all of the required ingredients needed for a Tottenham side who for so long have needed an identity. They now have one thanks to Postecoglou.
Forget Harry Kane. This is the man who can truly help Spurs.
Saudi spending should prompt transfer window rethink
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is correct. The Saudi Pro League‘s transfer calendar, which doesn’t end until Sept. 20, is an added headache to European clubs, whose own window closes at the beginning of the month. Those extra weeks, fretting about potentially losing a player who can’t be replaced in the transfer market until January, can prove anxiety-inducing.
“I think we have to change that [the window closing on Sept. 20],” Arteta said on Friday. “It is a lot of people involved in that process and they would have a say, the ownership would do the same. It would be on the table like with any offer and you have to look at it. The only thing I’m saying is it’s not ideal because they are a competitor.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who has also been dealing with Saudi interest in his star Mohamed Salah, also talked about this issue, suggesting that everyone should operate using the same calendar: “If [Saudi] want to be part of the system then you do your business at the same time.”
The whole idea of transfer windows needs significant reimagining, and potentially they should be abolished altogether.
The current format in the Premier League was introduced in 2002-03, and before that, players could be transferred throughout the season until March 31. The concept was originally introduced to protect clubs’ rosters and financial stability. Now, though? It’s a circus for agents and their contemporaries, encouraging moves and influencing rhetoric to push for either a better contract or a transfer elsewhere.
The transfer window isn’t a window as such, more of a collection of doors through which agents can push their clients.
What if we completely got rid of the January window and closed the summer’s by July 15? This could help clubs properly plan for the upcoming season and create a culture of respected and protected preseasons.
If there is a serious injury during the summer, there could perhaps be a way to replace the player under certain circumstances and with a set of limitations such as restricting additions to academy or domestic-based players. If the football calendar ever lightens for players, fewer injuries would occur and a healthier, calmer summer could take place.
Klopp: Answer would be no to any Salah offer
Jurgen Klopp says there is no way that Liverpool would let Mohamed Salah leave amidst interest from Al Ittihad in the Saudi Pro League.
Nothing is perfect and money will always talk, but stricter guidelines could help everyone fall under the same calendar and protocol. This could also improve the relationship between players and employers.
Today’s transfer circus is damaging, unnecessary and pushing us further away from why we’re here in the first place: the game itself.
After being unable to purchase them throughout the competition, a petition with more than 150,000 signatures had been circulating and the Beaverton, Oregon-based sportswear giant was forced to abide.
“We recognize that during the tournament we didn’t serve those fans who wished to show their passion and support to the squad’s goalkeepers,” Nike’s statement read. “We are committed to retailing women’s goalkeeping jerseys for major tournaments in the future.”
This never needed to be a thing, especially in a World Cup year. Nike learned its lesson and hopefully all brands learn a valuable lesson: know your customer.