Wayne Rooney Declares Lionel Messi ‘Arguably the Best EVER’ Ahead of MLS Arrival, Snubbing Former Teammate Cristiano Ronaldo
Wayne Rooney has risked upsetting fans of his former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo by heaping praise on incoming MLS player Lionel Messi.
The DC United coached reserved the ultimate compliment for Messi as he shared his excitement ahead of the Argentine’s long-awaited arrival in the States.
Rooney made his own landmark move to the MLS in 2018, when he joined DC United after a brief season back with his boyhood club Everton.
Now Messi is set to follow Rooney to the MLS after leaving Paris St-Germain this summer and agreeing to join Inter Miami, with his grand unveiling at the club pencilled in for July 16.
Rooney’s comments may spark the ire of those who believe his former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo is the greatest of all time
Miami currently sit rock bottom of the Eastern Conference, but in an interview with Sky Sports, Rooney suggested their big-name signing could inspire them up the table.
‘It’s a great move, obviously, for the MLS,’ said Rooney when asked about Messi’s imminent arrival in Miami.
‘Commercially, it’ll be huge. It’ll draw more interest in the game from different regions of the world – I’m sure it’ll do that as well, because you’re getting arguably the best player to ever play the game.
‘I’m sure he’ll come here, and want to be competitive, and want to try and help Miami to climb up the table.
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‘I think not just fans, but coaches, players – everyone is excited to have him in the league.’
However, Rooney’s compliment may spark the ire of those who consider Ronaldo, rather than Messi, as the greatest to ever grace a football pitch.
The Messi-Ronaldo rivalry – although not of great concern to either player – has provided one football’s greatest modern-day debates as to who is superior; with Messi fans in Saudi Arabia at times chanting the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner’s name at Ronaldo in a bid to taunt the player when he features for Al-Nassr.
The franchise, owned by David Beckham, currently sits rock bottom of the Eastern Conference
And Rooney is one of a handful of players to have had close contact with both of the legendary stars, having featured alongside Ronaldo during their glory days at Man United, and against Messi during one of their sides’ Champions League match-ups.
He met Messi four times in the storied competition, with his Barcelona side getting the better of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in two finals – in 2009 and 2011 – but Rooney and Ronaldo came off the better when Man United beat the Catalan club in their two-legged semi-final clash in 2008.
Messi will be aided in his pursuit of glory with Inter Miami by his former Barcelona team-mate, Sergio Busquets, who has signed a deal to join the David Beckham-owned side, and Jordi Alba, who the Miami club are currently pursuing.
Incoming coach Tata Martino will also look to add more high profile signings to his roster, with the club mulling over moves for Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta, Luis Suarez, and Chelsea and Real Madrid star Eden Hazard.
The former Paris St-Germain midfielder is set to be unveiled by the club on July 16, but Messi-mania has already hit the United States.
Adidas, the club’s sponsor, has pasted enormous posters of the star in their windows at the brand’s flagship store in New York City, and Beckham joined in with the painting of a mural of the star on the side of a building in Miami to further boost publicity of his marquee signing.
Beckham himself has admitted that Messi’s headline-snatching snub of Saudi Arabia’s big-money offer caught him somewhat off-guard.
‘A couple of weeks ago, I woke up to about a million messages on my phone,’ the Man United icon shared at the start of July.
‘I was thinking, “What’s gone off? I don’t usually get this many messages”. All of a sudden, I hear Leo has come out and announced he’s coming to Miami.
‘Obviously, it wasn’t a surprise to me. I have always said, from the word go, that if I had the opportunity to bring the best players in the game to Miami, at whatever time of their careers, I would do that. I have always made that commitment to our fans.’
Messi is set to earn between £38.8m and £46.6m ($50-60m) a year at the MLS outfit, with his contract partially bankrolled by adidas and Apple TV, both of whom intend to profit-share with the Argentine playmaker.