Argentinian football star Lionel Messi received a grand welcome in Beijing as he arrived in China to play a friendly game before heading to Miami to join Major League Soccer side Inter Miami as a free agent. Fans were seen capturing photos with their phones as the 35-year-old was spotted at a hotel.
His arrival was announced in a post on the organiser International Football Invitation's official Weibo social media site, along with a video of players coming off an aircraft, ahead of Thursday's Argentina-Australia encounter at the recently constructed Workers' Stadium in the Chinese capital. This is also Messi's seventh visit to the Chinese capital city.
Despite the troubles of the men's national team, which has only played in the World Cup once, he has gotten a warm welcome on each of his past visits to China.
Lionel Messi explains his decision to go to Miami:
A few days ago, Messi stated that he wanted to get away from the spotlight behind the decision to go to Miami. As quoted by India Today, he said:
"I made the decision that I'm going to go to Miami. I still haven't closed it 100%. I'm still missing a few things, but we decided to go ahead. If Barcelona didn't work out, I wanted to leave Europe, get out of the spotlight and think more about my family. After winning the World Cup and not being able to go to Barca, it was time to go to the U.S. league to experience football in a different way and enjoy the day-to-day. Obviously with the same responsibility and desire to want to win and to always do things well. But with more peace of mind."
Messi played an integral role in Aregntina's World Cup win, scoring 7 goals.