The anticipation surrounding Lionel Messi’s much-heralded MLS switch continues to grow on a daily basis. And while the majority of media coverage has focused on the huge impact the World Cup winner will have on the league both on and off the pitch, one seasoned ex-pro-turned-coach has issued Messi a word of warning before he lands in Miami.
Wayne Rooney, who’s approaching his first anniversary as head coach of D.C. United, is very much looking forward to seeing Messi in action in MLS. He believes the Argentine will help raise the level of the league considerably, both from a technical perspective as well as a commercial one.
“I think it’s great to bring Messi into the league,” Rooney commented on Messi’s imminent arrival. “To get Messi in the league, arguably the greatest player of all time… It’s going to be great for the league, for Miami.”
Rooney is also relishing the opportunity to pitch his coaching acumen and the playing skills of his roster against Messi when United come up against Inter Miami, but he has also advised the superstar that landing in MLS won’t be an easy transition to make.
“It’d be nice if we were his first opponents, for D.C. fans to see him up close and for us to challenge ourselves against him. One thing I will say – it’s not going to be easy for him.
“The league’s a difficult league and I don’t think he’s going to come over here and absolutely tear it up immediately. He’ll have to adapt because it’s a bit different, it won’t be an easy ride for him.”
How Rooney fared during his playing days in MLS
Rooney himself made the switch from Europe to MLS as a player five years ago, when he signed for D.C. United. The former Everton and Manchester United forward enjoyed two seasons with the Eastern Conference outfit, scoring 23 league goals in 48 appearances and ending his first year in the States as United’s MVP and top scorer, as well as being named in the 2018 MLS Best XI.
The following season, Rooney was named as an MLS All-Star before he cut short his three-and-a-half-year contract after just two seasons to take up a coaching offer back in England with Derby County.
He returned to D.C. in July 2022 to step into his current role, and Rooney’s coaching experience at the franchise has been somewhat more difficult than his playing stint there. United sit mid-table at the moment with six wins from 19 games.
Rooney’s assessment of Messi as a player also got straight to the point when the Englishman was asked to state his thoughts on the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, calling him the “best player to ever play the game”.
Rooney saw Messi in action up close and personal in both the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals, both of which Barcelona won against Rooney’s United, with Messi scoring in both matches.
Written and distributed by Chat T Sports.