Lionel Messi was officially unveiled as an Inter Miami player in front of over 18,000 fans in the rain at DRV PNK Stadium on Monday. The seven-time Ballon D’or winner and 2022 World Cup champion will likely debut for Inter Miami this Friday against Cruz Azul in the first game of the inaugural Leagues Cup.
Many great soccer players have come over from Europe to MLS in the twilight of their careers in the past. But this one feels bigger. Why? It is because he is Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest men’s soccer player ever.
As part of his contract with Inter Miami, Messi will earn about 50 to 60 million (US) dollars per year and that is before his Apple TV and Adidas earnings.
The Vancouver Whitecaps are also busy preparing for the Leagues Cup and they will host reigning CONCACAF Champions League winners Leon at BC Place on Friday.
Inter Miami came into the league in 2020 and they still have yet to play the Whitecaps. Could they meet next year, it’s possible?
But it is so possible that Messi and Inter Miami could play at BC Place in the future? Before we get to that, however, let’s look back at some of the biggest names to play at BC Place.
Whitecaps frustrate Wayne Rooney and DC United on August 17, 2019
Former Manchester United star Wayne Rooney drew a big crowd at BC Place on August 17, 2019. If you were at that game, you might remember a lot of Man United kits in the crowd and one of those fans apparently ran onto the pitch.
But it was the Whitecaps who came out victorious as Yordy Reyna’s 18th-minute goal was enough for the three points. Maxime Crépeau also made two saves for the clean sheet. It was the first Whitecaps home win in 85 days. Yup, the 2019 season was a miserable one for them and the win over Rooney and DC United is one of the few highlights.
Rooney was subbed off for Ola Kamara in the 72nd minute and was visibly upset with the fourth official. Welcome to MLS, Wayne. The officiating isn’t the greatest.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic shines brightly on April 5, 2019
Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his retirement a couple of months ago. He was an incredible soccer player and one of the game’s biggest personalities thanks to his numerous memorable quotes.
The Swede grew a large crowd and he got a lot of cheers and did not sit well with the Whitecaps players.
“I think this is kind of sad,” said then Whitecaps midfielder Felipe to TSN 1040’s Stu Walters at halftime per JJ Adams of The Province. “It’s for him, and it should be for us. It doesn’t matter who comes here. You’ve got to come here and support us, and not cheer for the opponent. That’s the way it should be.”
Unfortunately, Ibrahimovic gave the fans a lot to cheer about as he scored the second Galaxy goal of the game. This was a well-taken goal. It was Zlatan doing Zlatan things.
Legend says Zlatan didn’t play on the turf, the turf played on Zlatan.
Oh yeah, this was the game where Ali Adnan did that horrible Panenka penalty kick attempt. Before Adnan took it, Ibrahimovic was seen whistling.
Guess he willed Adnan’s miss into existence by whistling. That wouldn’t be surprising because he is Zlatan after all.
Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo and David Villa steal the show on September 26, 2015, in a game that saw penalty controversy
New York City FC were the newest MLS team in the 2015 season but they had some stars. Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo were two of the best midfielders of their generation and David Villa was one of the best strikers of his generation.
Imagine those three on the same team a decade earlier. That team would be unstoppable.
The Whitecaps had the opportunity to move closer to the playoffs against NYCFC. But even though they were in their mid to late 30s, Lampard, Pirlo and Villa would show them that they were still good players.
It was Lampard who got the game’s opening goal. But that wouldn’t have happened without Pirlo’s excellent through ball (As he has done many times throughout his career) to then-18-year-old Angelino who found Lampard in the box. Then, Chelsea’s all-time leader scorer put it past David Ousted and even received applause from some of the fans at BC Place.
This was a game full of penalty controversy. Pedro Morales got the Whitecaps level in the 88th minute from the spot. However, it looked like Waston just slipped on his own and the defender didn’t even make contact.
But in stoppage time, Villa got the match-winner, which was also a penalty. As you can see in the highlight video above, Matias Laba clearly gets the ball before Lampard. What makes things even more wild is that Lampard even said after the game that both the penalties given should not have been penalties. MLS reffing at its finest.
The author of this article still regrets not going to this game. I should have begged my parents to take me.
The spotlight was on David Beckham as the Whitecaps squander a 2-0 lead on July 18, 2012
Funny enough, as I am writing this it is July 18, 2023. This game took place eleven years ago on this day.
David Beckham put MLS on the map when he signed for the Galaxy in 2007. He helped grow MLS into the league it is today. After all, it is because of him that aging European stars are coming to MLS.
There was no surprise that the lower bowl of BC Place was nearly full as fans wanted to get a glimpse of Beckham. This wasn’t the first time Beckham played at BC Place. He and the Galaxy played a friendly match against the USL First Division incarnation of the Whitecaps on October 3, 2007, under the old roof of BC Place. That game drew 48,172 fans under the dome.
Back to the game on July 18, 2012.
Beckham got involved early…by giving the ball away to Camilo Sanvezzo who found Gershon Koffie and the latter opened the scoring. Barry Robson got his first goal as a Whitecap with a powerful header from YP Lee’s perfect cross. The Whitecaps were up 2-0 at halftime. Beckham barely made an impact.
But the Whitecaps couldn’t find that third goal in the second half. Less than 10 minutes into the game, Beckham made his mark. His deflected shot managed to get past Joe Cannon who was having a stellar game between the sticks. In the 87th minute, then-18-year-old Jose Villarreal got his first professional goal which was a solid strike from outside the box.
The game ended in a draw but it was a thrilling one. The fans at BC Place got their money’s worth and that was not just because of Beckham.
Will Lionel Messi play at BC Place?
So these guys played at BC Place but will Messi?
Beckham, Rooney, Ibrahimovic, Lampard, Pirlo and Villa were amazing players but Messi is on a different level. If Inter Miami are scheduled to play a game in Vancouver next season, tickets will be gone very quickly and the upper bowl might even open.
But will Messi want to play on turf?
Turf is tough to run on. Heck, it feels rough to even walk on. (I speak from experience)
Many soccer players have spoken against playing on turf. Surrey native, former Whitecap and current USWNT forward Sydney Leroux spoke against turf in an interview with Vice Sports back in 2016.
“The game is completely different, the game is fake,” said Leroux. ” You don’t know how the ball is going to bounce or run. You’re running pretty much on cement”
“If you ask me, soccer is a game that 100 percent, without a shadow of a doubt, has to be played on grass,” said Toronto FC and USMNT star Michael Bradley per Josh Rubin of The Toronto Star back in 2014.
When Thierry Henry played for the New York Red Bulls, he refused to play on the turf at BC Place and Empire Field. That was mainly due to him having a long Achilles injury and he feared the turf would aggravate it.
Can you blame the players for not wanting to play on turf? It feels like concrete, the ball bounces all crazy and when you fall, it hurts even more than on grass.
Messi is known for his agility but will he see the turf as something that could prevent him from doing his tricks and could he fear he might get hurt on it? Maybe. There was a study from 2019 that showed that turf has a higher injury risk than natural grass.
BC Place is supposed to get natural grass for the 2026 World Cup but why can’t they make it permanent? Perhaps the retractable roof makes it tough.
MLS commissioner Don Garber has also said MLS clubs may install natural grass in their stadiums to accommodate Messi. But the stadiums that will host the World Cup in three years (Including BC Place and Lumen Field in Seattle) will have grass installed but that is after Messi’s contract is up in Miami.
Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini was on the Sekeres and Price show on Tuesday and he was asked about Messi and if he can play on the turf at BC Place.
“I think he will play…unless he has problems with past injuries,” said Sartini. “Wayne Rooney, Zlatan & David Beckham played at BC Place…Pirlo too…but Messi is the goat If those players played here, why shouldn’t Messi? It would be fantastic if the league puts Vancouver against Messi on the schedule next year.”
There is a chance the Whitecaps could play Inter Miami this year though. If Vancouver and Inter Miami meet in the Leagues Cup final, it would be played at BC Place and the fans would have a chance to see Messi.
I’m saying there’s a chance but it is as small as an atom.