Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler said he was “excited” for Lionel Messi‘s potential impact on the city following news that the Argentine World Cup winner would be signing for Major League Soccer club Inter Miami CF.
Messi, 35, announced on Wednesday that he intended to join Inter Miami once his contract with French champions Paris Saint-Germain expires at the end of this month.
News that one of the greatest and most decorated players in history would be heading to South Beach has already caused a buzz around the soccer world and beyond.
Butler, the leading figure for a Heat team currently facing off with the Denver Nuggets in the 2023 NBA Finals, was asked during a media availability Thursday what impact he thought Messi could have on soccer in the United States.
“A lot of good,” he said. “Obviously, he is one of the greatest players to play that beautiful game. I’m so excited for the city of Miami, to be able to have a player of that caliber here. I’m excited for the city of Miami in so many different ways.
“Obviously us being in the Finals and having an opportunity to do something special. Now that he is here, I think all the football/soccer fans from all over the world are going to come here and get an opportunity to watch him compete. I’m glad he is here.”
Butler was far from alone among the city’s existing sports elite to welcome Messi to the city.
“I just want to say welcome to the 305 Lionel Messi. Now we’ve got two number 10s, but I just want to know which one is the fastest,” the Dolphins own No. 10, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, joked in a video message on Wednesday. “But anyways, congrats to you man.”
With the Heat trailing 2-1 to the Nuggets ahead of Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday and Messi still to tie up the loose ends of his transfer to Inter Miami, Butler understandably said he would take his time before trying to meet up with the former Barcelona icon.
“I wouldn’t say that I know him enough, but I have met him before,” Butler said. “Will I reach out? Probably not. I know he has probably got a ton of stuff going on anyway.
“He is coming over here to do something special for this city. I won’t reach out. I’m happy that he is here, though. I really am. I know we will link whenever he is here.”
Information from ESPN’s Nick Friedell was used in this report.
Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler ‘excited’ for Lionel Messi’s impact