- Coach calls for Messi protection
- Former rival said Messi gets special treatment
- 36 year-old to join Inter Miami this month
WHAT HAPPENED? Messi sent shockwaves through the football world last month when he announced his decision to join Inter Miami after leaving PSG. The conversation has now turned to how referees will protect one of the greatest players of all time from robust challenges.
According to former Atletico Madrid defender Felipe Luis, Messi received favourable treatment during his time at Barcelona. "He’s protected by the press and by the league," Luis said. “I believe they don’t want one of their best players of all time to be injured and not play."
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Messi is not the first global superstar to join a MLS club, but according to referee Robert Sibiga, the presence of the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner could put extra pressure on refs.
"This is not the level of David Beckham, or Zlatan,” said Sibiga. “This is a different level. As referees, the last thing you want to be is to be seen screwing up the game or allowing players who have way less talent and experience to do something to a player like Lionel Messi."
IN THREE PHOTOS:ImagoInter MiamiGetty
WHAT NEXT FOR MESSI?: Messi is currently enjoying a well-earned vacation, and is expected to be presented by his new club on July 16. With Inter Miami rock-bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Argentine World Cup winner will certainly have his work cut out.