Lionel Messi scores outrageous winner with last kick of the match on Inter Miami debut

How big is Lionel Messi?

Inter Miami, dead last in MLS, hosted Cruz Azul, bottom of Liga MX, in the uncelebrated Leagues Cup on Friday night, and a sellout crowd (one fan paid $3.5K for a spot near midfield) with LeBron James, Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian, Marc Anthony and Becky G in attendance showed up to watch.

You would've thought that Kim K had cursed Miami to a group stage exit, but Messi had other plans. 

16 years to the day since David Beckham made his LA Galaxy debut in a friendly against Chelsea, Messi went about recreating that iconic moment with Vice City.

He started on the bench, and both he and Sergio Busquets weren't with the squad during pregame warmups. Messi appeared during the anthem and then exchanged a warm embrace with King James.

Messi took a spot on the bench between Josef Martínez and Busquets before beginning his Terminator like processing and analyzing of match tactics and tendencies. 

The match wasn't even a minute old before DRV PNK Stadium serenaded their new hero with chants of "MESSI! MESSI! MESSI!" 

In the 10th minute, an appropriately timed tifo appeared. 

As you'd expect, it was a chaotic start to the game with Cruz Azul launching six shots in the opening 15 minutes. With cleaner finishing, they could've gone up 1-0. 

The pace slowed down over the next 10 minutes as Cruz Azul largely controlled possession, and any break in the action resulted in a quick cut on Apple TV to Messi doing nothing on the bench. On the broadcast, Taylor Twellman said he'd be shocked if Messi played for more than 20 minutes.  

Out on the pitch, 20-year-old Ian Fray — who's already suffered two ACL injuries in his young career — went down with a non-contact injury and was replaced by 19-year-old Noah Allen in the 30th minute.  

Miami's main threat was the head of Leonardo Campana, but we also saw a lot of the struggles that've plagued the Herons all season. The midfield was pretty much chasing shadows for 40 minutes.

It looked like the home team would gladly settle for 0-0 at halftime, but in the 44th minute Robbie Robinson pinged a cross field switch to Robert Taylor and he cut inside before cracking an effort off the post and in. Messi approved. 

At halftime, Messi and Busquets joined the rest of the subs in warming up on the pitch. He then returned to his spot on the bench for the start of the second half.

But in the 51st minute, Messi ripped his training top off and donned the pink No. 10. Alongside him entered Busquets and Martínez. Messi replaced 18-year-old Benjamin Cremaschi and took the captain's armband. 

His first involvement was a series of passes and dribbles that took possession from midfield deep into Cruz Azul's third but fizzled out. Still, the GOAT looked hungry. The man suddenly faced with the ultimate battle of his lifetime was Cruz Azul left back Ignacio Rivero. 

In the 61st minute, La Máquina almost equalized off a Busquets turnover. In the 65th, Cruz Azul did level after Uriel Antuna — fresh off winning the Gold Cup — turned in the area and beat Drake Callender with pure violence.

In the 68th, Messi went for an Olimpico off the corner. It drifted over. In the 71st he had a shot at the top of the area that was blocked. In the 77th, Messi delivered a line-breaking through ball that played Martínez behind the defense but his angle to shoot was cut off by the outrushing Andrés Gudiño.

Cruz Azul then pushed Inter Miami back for a sustained period, but Miami had a forward thrust in the 83rd that ended with Busquets attempting to scoop a ball through to Messi. The 36-year-old was sent tumbling to the floor chasing it after going shoulder-to-shoulder with Juan Escobar, and the ref rightfully waved play on.

The formula was repeated in the 85th minute when, after a nice sequence of passing, Busquets clipped a first-time ball into the run of Messi. It looked like a potential winner as the flag stayed down but the Argentine's shot was again blocked.

Martínez put the ball in the back of the net shortly after with Messi playing provider, but the whole sequence was offside and flagged back. Still, suddenly a Miami winner looked imminent as Busquets again beautifully picked out Messi before another offside ended the attack.

Cruz Azul then had a massive opportunity to take the lead but Callender pulled off another save to keep it at 1-1. Miami went the other way and, just as the footballing gods wrote it, Messi earned a free kick at the top of the area deep in stoppage time.

Guess what happened next? You know what happened. The greatest ending in the history of the Leagues Cup happened: a walk-off Messi free kick.

Lionel Messi Inter Miami debut goal vs Cruz Azul 

Ultimately, it was 35 minutes of pure entertainment from Messi and Busquets. They play again in the Leagues Cup against Atlanta United on Tuesday at DRV PNK Stadium. It's must-watch TV.

Update: Here are all the Messi moments in one video.

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