Lionel Messi Jul 21, 2023; Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA; Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi (10) celebrates after scoring a goal against Cruz Azul during the second half at DRV PNK Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Major League Soccer via USA TODAY Sports

There’s an old adage in the broadcast booth that you let the moment, especially when it’s a big one, breathe. In those big moments, commentators are often told by their producers to resist the urge to say anything. And Taylor Twellman did just that moments after Lionel Messi’s remarkable MLS debut ended on a perfect note.

Messi did not let the opportunity to make a first impression go to waste in his Inter Miami CF debut on Friday night. Nearly four minutes into stoppage time in the second half, Miami was locked in a 1-1 tie in its Leagues Cup match against Mexico City’s Cruz Azul from Mexico’s Liga MX.

Miami draw a free kick and called on Messi, who did not start the match but was brought in as a sub. Messi didn’t let the opportunity go to waste, as he carried the kick past Cruz Azul’s diving goalkeeper into the upper left corner for the match-winner.

Appearing on The Rich Eisen Show Monday, Twellman told Eisen that there was a period of 85 seconds after Messi’s free-kick hit the back of the net where he forgot he was commenting on the game for Apple TV+.

“I literally was so enthralled with the moment, to then see him celebrate at the end, and then run over and see his mom and dad, his family, his kids, it’s as surreal of a moment I’ve ever been a part of,” Twellman said. “And that includes the Zlatan Ibrahimović debut for the [Los Angeles] Galaxy, which we could always get into a debate…but the Hollywood screenwriters may be on strike, but I feel like they wrote one script, and that was for [president and co-owner of Inter Miami CF] David Beckham.”

It’s hard for MLS or Apple TV+ to ask for a better debut out of Messi. So with that, Eisen asked Twellman if this is going to keep cutting through or if Messi needs to have more moments like Friday night to keep this up.

“I think he has to win. I don’t think he has to hit a 94th-minute game-winning shot every single game. I think that anybody that expects that is going to be out of their coconut…So for the next three summers, all the eyeballs in the world, for almost 6 to 8 weeks, everywhere in the world is going to be on this country. And guess who the face of it is now?”

Twellman pointed out that Messi could be a key international figure over the next few summers as well, including at Copa America in 2024, the FIFA Club World Cup in 2025, and the FIFA World Cup in 2026. And he said that Apple’s global broadcasting deal with MLS provides further opportunities for reach, including with highlights.

“I just look at this. I think Apple TV allows you, and Rich, you and I know this, but the listeners don’t understand,” Twellman told Eisen. “That highlight is not geo-blocked. That highlight hit over 100 million views in less than 24 hours. The last time his debut was geo-blocked, so no one around the world can see that. The power of Apple TV having the rights to Major League Soccer in 107 countries, that in itself, with the greatest player in the world, that tells you right now, it’s gonna infiltrate and transcend sports and soccer, I think faster than Beckham did, Zlatan, anyone else. Then you couple that with the runway of the next three years going into the World Cup, Rich, I just think the time is now, and I think a lot of people are starting to see it.”

[The Rich Eisen Show on Twitter]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.