Messi Meets America (2023)

The Golden Goose – ‘Messi Meets America’ (2023)

When MLS announced Messi was joining Inter Miami FC, I admit I opposed the idea. Messi’s coming to MLS would be a black mark against and devalue his career. It would be the perfect encapsulation of MLS as a retirement league, I thought. Of course, Apple and MLS knew better, and it turned out that Lionel Messi was a shirt-selling, ticket-scalping billion dollar sports industry all by himself.

Well, I’m guessing on the billion dollar number. 🙂

It wasn’t the economics that won me over —  because what do I care if billionaire MLS owners make even more money. What won me over was watching Messi play on an MLS team.

I had watched Messi on TV in maybe 20-30 games, such as WC 2022. Years ago, I saw him play in person in a Barcelona friendly versus a Mexican team, as part of a double header with the Quakes. For that game, I also got to watch in person a Barca open practice at tiny Kezar stadium. That practice was actually one of the soccer-watching highlights of my fandom, because Pep Guardiola’s practice was an absolute wonder. Sadly, it was before I had an iphone.

But this summer, watching Messi play on an MLS team was different. When Messi played against the best of the best in World Cups, I couldn’t see what he was doing on the pitch, what made him so stellar. But against an MLS team, and with Apple TV’s camera crew, I finally understood why he is called the Little Magician: the no-look last-second passes, the little steps, how a laser to the upper 90 is wired into his foot, the unflappable concentration and belief. And almost all the time, he is smiling and having a good time. It’s like watching your child play with and enjoy a new toy. You feel so good for little Messi.

About the series

OK, ok, ok, enough reminiscing, so what about the Apple TV+ series Messi Meets America, you ask?

The first 3 episodes cover Messi’s arrival and Inter Miami’s successful run in the Nations League tournament. The 2023 edition of the tournament was for all MLS and La Liga MX clubs, and all the games were played in the USA. Messi played his first game for Miami on Jul-21-2023, and the team went on a 7-game run to win their first title. The 2nd and 3rd episodes highlight these games, and since I had watched them all live, I enjoyed reliving some of those moments and also seeing the behind-the-scenes activity. I also was grateful that the creators managed to eliminate most of Taylor Twellman’s game announcing.

The first 3 episodes emphasize Messi’s appreciation for teamwork and how individual improvement benefits the overall team performance. What has enabled Messi to so readily succeed in MLS is that the club also brought in long-time teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, and former coach Tata Martino. It is very enjoyable to watch the trio work their magic to exploit Messi’s talents while also improving every player on the team.

The interviews with these main four and the other Inter Miami teammates give us a chance to get to know the club. We learn how Adidas had to source a lot of pink material to meet demand. We get fed interviews with owners Beckham and Jorge Mas.

Tom Bogert wrote in The Athletic how Miami finagled the MLS roster rules, but that the Jordi Alba TAM signing still defied roster credibility and seemed very similar to the Blaise Matuidi TAM scandal that earned Miami some hefty penalties. I assume we will learn the truth after the trio retire from MLS in 2 years.

Apple released episodes 4 and 5 on Nov-1-2023, and those two episodes followed the rest of the MLS regular season, where Miami failed to make the playoffs. Messi got injured while playing for Argentina, and both he and Jordi Alba did not feature much in the last 8 games of the season. While the news about Messi’s fitness was very opaque at the time, in the series we see his knees are packed in ice. We also learn that he has never had surgery, which has obviously contributed to his long and successful career.

Episode 6 is scheduled to be released Dec-6-2023. Presumably they are going to focus on Messi’s winning his 8th Ballon d’Or. Winning that was primarily due to his triumph in the 2022 World Cup, but Inter Miami, MLS, David Beckham, Jorge Mas, and Apple will probably milk the award for every credit they can. Previews seem to indicate that viewers will also see footage inside Messi’s house and with his family.

About SMUGGLER Entertainment

The rapid development of the Messi Meets America  series is impressive. Messi announced he was coming to MLS in Jun-2023, and Apple showcased the series 2 weeks before the MLS Playoffs began (Oct-25) and 3 weeks before Messi won the Ballon d’Or (Oct-30). However, maybe the production team finally ran out of steam. The series was originally announced as 6 episodes, and I am writing this review without having seen the 6th and presumably final episode. 

It’s curious that no Directors are listed in the credits, although many producers and editors are listed.

However, maybe that’s just the way SMUGGLER Entertainment rolls on what must have been a massively chaotic project. Check out the creative commercials on their website. You could spend a day watching all of them, but my favorite commercial is the clever fast-paced “Rexona – Stunt City” by Director Ivan Zachariáš.

Merchandising Messi

I didn’t realize that Messi has a website, a store, and coming in Apr-2024 to Miami, an immersive Messi Experience world tour. With all the excessive hype by MLS and AppleTV, I have a bad feeling about all of this… are they cooking the golden goose? Will he turn into — Cristiano Ronaldo? Or even worse, Diego Maradona?

In conclusion

I really enjoyed the first 3 episodes of Messi Meets America, but after that it is mostly a marketing tool. Still, I’m sure Messi and Inter Miami fans will enjoy every minute. I just hope the meat grinder that is American business does not chew up and spit out the world’s greatest footballer.

Update on Dec-31-2023

I watched the 6th and final episode. Messi, Alba, and Miami are too injured to make the playoffs. We see Messi, his wife, and their 3 sons in their nice kitchen area. Messi talks about how important his family is to him and how he also wants to play as long as possible. The real importance of this episode is to stay tuned for Apple TV+’s next series on how Messi solidified his “greatest player of all time” status by winning WC 2022.

7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7