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Lionel Messi and Inter Miami show off new jersey, help christen a new ship

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Lionel Messi showed off a new jersey, then helped christen a new ship.

Inter Miami celebrated its partnership with cruise line Royal Caribbean International on Tuesday by sending Messi and his teammates to the Port of Miami, where they took part in the traditional naming of a new ship — the Icon of the Seas, in this case. The ship, which formally sets sail for the first time this weekend, is the longest in the world at 1,198 feet.

Messi was the headliner at the ceremony, placing a soccer ball atop a stand to “start” the traditional breaking of a champagne bottle against the bow of the ship — something that is supposed to bring good luck to the vessel and its passengers.

The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner called it a “privilege.”

“It’s a great honor for me and I know what it means for the city of Miami and the entire world,” Messi said in Spanish. “So, I name this ship Icon of the Seas. God bless you and all of the people who will sail with her.”

At an earlier event inside a theater aboard the ship, Inter Miami showed off its new black kit for the 2024 season. Messi and his teammates removed pink zippered sweatshirts to reveal the black jersey, trimmed in the team’s traditional pink with a Royal Caribbean logo across the chest.

Messi and Inter Miami leave later this week for Saudi Arabia and a pair of matches next week as part of its international preseason tour. First up is a match against Al-Hilal on Jan. 29, and then on Feb. 1 it’s a match against Al Nassr — which features Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi’s longtime rival.

But Ronaldo’s health is in serious question. Al Nassr had a pair of matches that were scheduled to be held in China starting this week called off because of what organizers called “physical issues” for Ronaldo — reportedly a calf injury that could take two weeks to heal.

And that might mean Ronaldo vs. Messi won’t happen. At a news conference in China, Ronaldo apologized to fans and said injuries are something he couldn’t control.

Messi and Ronaldo have faced off 35 previous times between matches for club and country, with Messi’s teams winning 16, Ronaldo’s teams winning 10 and the sides settling for a draw on the other nine occasions. Messi has 21 goals and 12 assists in those matches; Ronaldo has 20 goals and one assist.

Reporting by The Associated Press.


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