Sporting KC’s Andreu Fontàs ready to face former teammate Messi

Sporting KC’s Andreu Fontàs ready to face former teammate Messi

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sporting Kansas City defender Andreu Fontàs has a bit of history with world-renowned Inter Miami striker Lionel Messi.

Fontàs has been with Sporting since 2018 but spent a year in the youth system of Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona in 2007 to 2008 before playing for the club’s B team from 2008 to 2011 and with the senior team from 2009 to 2013.

Messi is also a product of the Barcelona youth system and spent the majority of his professional career with them from 2004 to 2021 winning a club record 34 championship trophies in that span. Miami also has other former Barcelona players as defenders, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets.

Fontàs played in 16 games with the senior squad and won eight trophies, including the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup where he was a sub in the final match.

SKC Cauldron prepares for big match vs Messi and Inter Miami

He also played against Messi and Barcelona when he was on loan at RCD Mallorca for the majority of the 2012 to 2013 season, and from 2013 to 2018 as a defender for RC Celta de Vigo.

He knows firsthand what it’s like to see one of the greatest soccer players of all time in person.

“It is better for sure to be his teammate than his rival,” Fontàs said on Thursday. “Will be special to play against him again. We’ll try to do our best to not let him have his game because we know that he needs very few chances to punish you.”

Sporting KC defender Nemanja Radoja was Fontàs’s teammate at Celta from 2014 to 2019 before leaving for Levante UD in 2019 to 2022. He also spent some time defending against Messi.

Fontàs recalled Messi’s competitiveness and desire to win at all costs.

“The way he wants to win and compete every single training, I would say even when you are his teammate,” Fontàs said. “Every training session, every exercise, he wants to win. I think that’s the reason why he’s had this unbelievably successful career.”

Messi recently returned from a hamstring injury against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday and scored 13 minutes after he subbed into the game coming out of the half.

Inter Miami lost in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions Cup to Monterrey 5-1 on aggregate on Wednesday night, and Messi played the whole 95 minutes of the match notching an assist.

Head coach Peter Vermes and Sporting expect Messi to play the same amount of minutes against them in what they anticipate to be a sold-out Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday.

“There’s a lot of people coming in from outside of here, outside of our community come and watch the game as well. Because they don’t get the opportunity,” Vermes said.

“When you dream of being a soccer player, these are the games when this many people show up and you get to play against these kinds of players,” attacker Daniel Sallói said.

Miami has scored the most goals in the MLS with 16 but has also given up a lot of goals with 12. Yet, they are third in the MLS Eastern Conference with a 3-2-3 record.

Sporting is 2-1-4 which is good for seventh in the Western Conference, but the team has blown their last two leads at home to the LA Galaxy (up 2-0, lost 3-2) and Portland Timbers (up 3-0, tied at 3).

A win or draw against Miami, along with limiting Messi, could do wonders to boost the team’s confidence early in the season.

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“These are the moments where you hope for, so just go out there enjoy it and do your best because you don’t know when you get a chance like this again, said Sallói.

“This is gonna be awesome, and you know, going to training and seeing my picture on Arrowhead. It’s one of those feelings that bow I take a picture, send it to my family and I just can’t wait to be there on Saturday.”

Along with being an attacker for Sporting, Sallói is a Kansas City Chiefs season ticket holder which makes playing in Arrowhead Stadium a whole lot sweeter.

“It’s just as exciting for us players as it is for fans to be there and watch it,” he said.

As for Vermes, the game against Inter Miami is a chance for more people to watch and become fans of soccer.

“My feeling is that we have another opportunity in that regard,” Vermes said. “We have another opportunity as a league to, if there haven’t been soccer fans, maybe they become soccer fans.”

“More importantly, maybe they become Sporting fans and those are opportunities for us to, you know, to provide them with entertainment that they feel good about, and that hopefully they’ll become MLS fans and Sporting fans.”

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

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