Messi is now readying himself for another shot at glory in the U.S. Open Cup, with Cincinnati next up in the semi-finals of that competition, and Pat Noonan admits it would be foolish to try and come up with a plan to try and contain the all-time great. He has said: “It'll be a tough test. There are people out there with opinions about ‘do your man mark Sergio Busquets and cut off service?’ Okay but now other players are free and they can hurt you. Everybody's trying to find solutions to stop a really good team and nobody's been able to do it. The reality is, in terms of Messi, not many have been able to do that at the highest level of this game for the last two decades. For us to think we’re just going to have the answer, it's silly. He's still playing at a very high level and fresh off a World Cup title.”
AND WHAT'S MORE
Noonan added on the impact that Messi has made at Inter Miami: “They hadn't won in 11 league games prior to his arrival. Now they haven't lost a game. There's a reason that the best player in the world, or one of the best players in the world, changes the dynamic from professionalism to the on-field quality and everything else. He just makes players around him better. You see guys like [Miami’s Robert] Taylor, all of a sudden a lot of these guys play with a different level of confidence and you're seeing the best version of them. And it’s not just Messi. Add the quality of Busquets and [Jordi] Alba. And [former Atlanta United coach] Tata Martino – so now you have a coach with experience who's won things not only internationally but specifically in our league.”
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Messi’s exploits for club and country across the last 12 months have put him in contention for another Ballon d’Or triumph, with the 36-year-old proving to be as talismanic as ever as he remains in the hunt for more collective and individual prizes.