FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Lionel Messi and Inter Miami will play an exhibition match on Nov. 10 to celebrate him winning his eighth Ballon d’Or.
The team will play fellow Major League Soccer club New York City FC. Both teams missed the MLS playoffs, which started last month.
The trophy — which Messi received in Paris on Monday — will be presented to the crowd before the match, with that ceremony also set to include remarks by MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas, the team said.
And there will be no shortage of themes built around the number 8, commemorating the record times Messi has won the Ballon d’Or — presented annually to the world’s top player. The team is saying it will “celebr8” Messi’s trophy by playing the extra game, and a special drink priced at $8.88. There will be gold fireworks and a gold carpet entrance as well, the team said, another nod to the gold trophy.
Messi returned to South Florida early Tuesday after the Ballon d’Or announcement and was at a training session with the club that morning, which was a clear indicator that Inter Miami was still looking to add a match even though its MLS season is over.
Messi and Inter Miami were scheduled to play two matches in China — with the possibility of more than 100,000 tickets getting sold for those games — this coming week, but that tour dealt with a slew of logistical issues and was eventually called off.
Inter Miami said the reason was “unforeseen circumstances.” The tour promoter, NSN, said the decision to cancel was out of respect to Chinese officials following the death last week of the country’s former second-ranking leader, Li Keqiang. He was China’s top economic official for a decade.
The NYCFC match also will be a tune-up of sorts for Messi, who hasn’t played since Inter Miami’s MLS season ended on Oct. 21. He is expected to join Argentina for World Cup qualifying games against Uruguay (in Buenos Aires) on Nov. 16 and Brazil (in Rio de Janeiro) on Nov. 21.
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