Argentine superstar Lionel Messi arrived in Beijing on Saturday for a friendly match before leaving a storied European career to join Major League Soccer side Inter Miami as a free agent.
His arrival was announced in a post on the organiser International Football Invitation’s official Weibo social media site with a video of players stepping off a plane, ahead of Thursday’s Argentina-Australia match in the Chinese capital’s recently rebuilt Workers’ Stadium.
Messi, who lifted the World Cup in Qatar in December and is widely considered to be one of the game’s all-time greats, confirmed this week he will leave French champions Paris St Germain for the U.S. league.
This is the Argentina captain’s seventh visit to China and his first since 2017.
He has received a fervent welcome on each of his previous visits to China, which has a huge soccer fan base despite the struggles of the men’s national team, who have played at the World Cup only once.
Australia and Argentina last met at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in the round of 16, where Messi was among the scorers as his team won 2-1.