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Messi takes Miami
Lionel Messi has arrived to join Inter Miami with a record-breaking contract. The world’s most famous athlete is taking South Florida by storm.
Lionel Messi isn’t just a soccer superstar. He’s also a source of artistic inspiration.
Messi, who rejected a $500 million deal with Saudi Arabia to join Inter Miami, landed in South Florida this week ahead of a welcome ceremony at the DRV PNK Stadium Sunday. In anticipation of his arrival, a crop of artists have painted murals and welcome signs in Messi’s honor.
Messi’s face is gracing walls over Miami-Dade — well, mostly in Wynwood. Here’s where you can find them.
148 NW 28th St.
Maximiliano Bagnasco knows what the people want.
Ever since Argentina won the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the Argentinian artist has been painting murals of Messi from Buenos Aires to Albania “because people ask for them.” Bagnasco, whose been painting professionally since 1998, specializes in detailed, photorealistic portraits, including Bob Marley, Diego Maradona and Lebron James. Bagnasco said he was in Albania painting when Messi announced that he would join Inter. The artist got a call from Gustavo Miculitzki from Block Capital Group to come to Miami as soon as possible to paint the massive mural in Wynwood.
The mural has captured the attention of tons of soccer fans, including David Beckham himself. Bagnasco brought the soccer star and Inter Miami co-owner up in his crane to see the mural up close.
“I am happy to leave a mural of Messi, but also to leave a big mural in Wynwood, which is what i wanted to do for a long time,” Bagnasco said.
NW Second Ave and 23rd St.
Arlex Campos, a Venezuelan artist and tattoo artist, was the first to paint a mural of Messi wearing the Inter jersey.
Campos, who has called Miami home for the last eight years, said he’s been overwhelmed with the support and attention that the mural has gotten since he painted it about a month ago. The work has been written about in Japanese, Arabic and Italian, he said. Hopefully, now that Messi is in Miami, he’ll take a photo with the mural, Campos said.
“It’s a revolution for the league to have a player of this level playing for Inter,” Campos said. “It’s craziness for the city.”
55 NW 25 St.
This mural, near Veza Sur Brewing Co. in Wynwood, is 100% fan-made.
It was painted by members of Vice City 1896, the official supporters group for Inter Miami, said Chris Moramarco, the group’s co-founder and artist. The group hosted painting sessions every night in the week leading up to Messi’s birthday for fans to participate.
Messi’s arrival in Miami marks a shift for both Inter and Major League Soccer as a whole, Moramarco said. The group aims to create a fan environment that emulates the vibe in Latin American soccer stadiums. Vice City 1896 felt the best way to welcome Messi was with the art that has become synonymous with Miami – a mural.
“Taking it to the street is part of our culture,” Moramarco said. “It’s part of who we are.”
This family-owned Argentinian restaurant is not new to the hype. Since 2018, years before Messi even won the World Cup for Argentina, Fiorito has had a Messi mural outside of its door.
The restaurant, located at 5555 NE Second Ave., first put up a mural of Messi in 2018 which was later repainted in 2020 by artist Claudio Picasso, said Maximiliano Alvarez, the restaurant owner and longtime Messi fan. The restaurant got a lot of flack for it at first, he recalled. Argentina fans, angry about not winning a World Cup, said there should be a mural of Maradona instead.
“We wanted to represent and make sure people know that we will be backing up Messi no matter what,” he said. “Of course, now he got the Copa America, he got the Finalissima Cup and then the World Cup, and everybody’s coming up with murals and everything. But we had it long before that.”
Alvarez, who is hopeful that Messi will come visit the Fiorito, said he’s followed Messi’s whole career and admires who he is as an athlete and as a person. If Alvarez could tell Messi one thing, he’d simply say, “Thank you.”
This story was produced with financial support from The Pérez Family Foundation, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The Miami Herald maintains full editorial control of this work.
This story was originally published July 13, 2023, 2:45 PM.