MIAMI (WSVN) - Soccer legend Lionel Messi has been spotted across South Florida days before his anticipated debut with Inter Miami CF.
Ever since Messi and his family hopped off a private plane in Fort Lauderdale earlier this week, he has been spotted around town, as his first match with Inter Miami is set for July 21.
Cellphone video captured Messi and his family as they shopped for groceries at a Publix in Sea Ranch Lakes, a village near Fort Lauderdale.
The soccer superstar also took the time to pose for pictures with fans at the supermarket.
All over South Florida, murals of Messi have been painted. David Beckham’s wife, Victoria Beckham, posted on her Instagram account a picture of a mural of the soccer star in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood.
“Messi being in Miami is a dream come true,” said a fan as he stood in front of a mural.
Messi is on the minds of local fans and businesses who can’t get enough of Messi mania.
In another sighting, the 36-year-old visited Cafe Prima Pasta in Miami Beach on Wednesday night.
“It’s amazing that he’s come to the place he’s got to be. He is meant to be with us in Miami, full of Argentinians, full of Latin Americans, so we can’t be more excited,” said a restaurant customer.
Messi even has a chicken sandwich named after him at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood.
And the DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale is getting ready to sell out seats, even installing more in order to meet demands.
Ticket sales for Inter Miami home games have skyrocketed ever since Messi announced he would join the team. Tickets for his first game with Inter Miami are going for as high as $1,000
Sports journalists have been weighing in on the impact Messi’s presence will have in South Florida.
“LeBron coming here changed the market, you know, and gave four years where – it’s unmatched as far as the circus,” said Dave Hyde, a columnist for SunSentinel. “Now, on an international scale, Messi beats that. You name a city internationally, and this is much bigger for them.”
To welcome Messi, Inter Miami is planning an unveiling event Sunday at the stadium. It’s free to season ticketholders.
While the team is keeping tight-lipped on who will attend the event, social media rumors have swirled that Shakira, Bad Bunny and Maluma are among the stars who might show up.
Messi is set to usher in a new era for the team.
“He will make every player in Miami better, instantly,” said Ray Hudson, a commentator for SiriusXM. “They will have to sharpen up their game though, and I’m sure they will, because they’ll know that they’ll have a big responsibility on their own shoulders to live up to Lionel’s standards.”
Messi is scheduled to make his official debut with Inter Miami a week from Sunday at DRV PNK Stadium in a game against Cruz Azul, Mexico’s Club team.
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