As the world watches Messi and Inter Miami soar to the Leagues Cup final, the South Florida team will have its biggest obstacle yet: playing against Nashville SC and their star Hany Mukhtar.
The two-time MLS All-Star has been in top form, and sat down with MARCA ahead of the big final.
You spent 13 years with Hertha Berlin, went to Benfica, RB Salzburg, Brondby… so what attracted you to come to MLS?
The project they proposed to me was very different than what I had experienced before they told me they’d build a team around me and to hear that was a unique opportunity. I think it was the right choice, at the time I wanted to have something new and to experience something different. The club always said ‘we want to win trophies’ and 3.5 years later we are here, playing a final at home. My decision to come here was very good.
You seem very happy at Nashville SC…
Of course when you’re happy and scoring goals and winning games, you know it’s the right choice for your career.
What changes have you noticed in the league since you made your debut?
Look at today, Messi’s in the league… one of the best ever. We have come a long way, the MLS is developing in the right way and its great for us players that players like him want to come here it’s amazing. In Nashville the first day I arrived no one cared about soccer I can guarantee you that. In 2020 or even before, no one knew what soccer was. Now we have average 27,000 people at the stadium. Tomorrow will be a sold out crowd so its amazing to see how far we have come and its not even done and its exciting for soccer here.
In 2020 or even before, no one (in Nashville) knew what soccer was.
How was it being part of all the craziness in the Club America game?
Yea America is one of the biggest clubs in Mexico and we knew about their strengths and to be fair sometimes to win a title you need luck. I will not tell you here that we deserved to win that game, we were lucky it got called back and then we used the opportunity and showed a good performance against Minnesota. Then we played Monterrey also one of the best teams in Mexico, my goal shouldve stood but then they shouldve gotten a penalty. So it was fair. It is amazinfg to beat 2 big clubs in Mexico, we had a lot of America fans here and it’s a great experience to have Leagues Cup here.
Do you think the MLS has caught up to Liga MX now compared to previous years or even have passed Liga MX?
We played Toluca at home a great team and we lost, they had great players. Club America we know how good they are, Monterrey, it’s difficult to say. You have to say Monterrey played 6 games in 6 different cities, America traveled here to play. There are different things we need to consider but the level of both leagues is very high. It’s a good tournament, for them it’s good to play against some players like Messi and Busquets.
Looking ahead towards the final, you’re playing a new Inter Miami with Messi, Busquets, Jordi Alba – how are you feeling leading up to this game a final against one of if not the best in history?
It’s amazing for us to play it at home against them. We all know Messi he just won the World Cup and couple of my friends were surprised he scored so many goals and I’m like ‘Bro, he won the World Cup and he was doing the same thing’ he did what he is doing here on the highest level. Busquets one of the smartest 6’s to ever play, Alba an amazing left back. I think it is going to be a fantastic game and an amazing atmosphere and thats what we need.
You know something about fast starts, an MVP, 2x All star, 56 goals in 103 MLS caps, are you surpised how fast Messi has started off his career here?
I’m not surprised I think he would do the same in any league, if you put in Germany, he did it in Spain for 20 years, he did it in France. The last 20 years he always has more than 20 goals so of course he would do it here too, but I think the level here is really growing.
You have an amazing stadium here, what are you expecting from the fans and atmosphere?
The atmosphere will be electric and we have to bring it on the field and I think we’ll have an amazing night tomorrow.