Inter Miami and United States defender DeAndre Yedlin has hailed the off-field values of new teammate Lionel Messi as the pair prepare for Saturday's Leagues Cup final against Nashville SC on Saturday.
While Yedlin was well aware Messi was an incredible soccer player long before the World Cup champion arrived in South Florida last month, he acknowledged Friday that what he didn't know about were the Argentine's qualities as a teammate and a human being, especially for someone with such a legendary status in the sport.
"Just his overall vibe and attitude ... he's always smiling, he talks to everybody," said Yedlin of the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner during a news conference Friday.
"He could have come in and said, 'I'm doing stuff my way and that's how it's going to be.' But he's come in and he's completely mixed in with the group: the old guys, the young guys, just like a regular player.
"Obviously I had ridiculous respect for him as a player before I played with him, but I have even more respect for him now. He's an unbelievable human being."
Miami boss Gerardo "Tata" Martino, who coached Messi in Barcelona and with the Argentina national team, added that he thinks having less pressure on Messi's shoulders has helped him and his former Barca teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba settle in nicely.
"They came here to compete and achieve things," said Martino. "This is a league they don't have the pressure like basketball, baseball or the NFL.
"When you find players that have a history but still want to compete and have the desire to win, that makes things much better for the coaches because they are dedicated to the idea and can help push the team on the road to winning."
Saturday's final on the road against Nashville will see the young club try to lift a trophy for the first time, less than a month after Messi made his star-studded debut at DRV PNK Stadium.
And while Miami are on an offensive roll coming in, having scored 21 goals in their six games so far in the competition, Yedlin knows things won't come easy against a Nashville side that is 8-2-2 at home this season in MLS.
"We're in good form and confident, but we've only been together for three weeks," said Yedlin. "We had a meeting today to look at mistakes in the Philadelphia [semifinal] game. We've given teams opportunities, we have to clean that up."
As has been the case all competition long with Messi on the pitch, ticket prices for Saturday's game are sky high, but Yedlin said Friday that team owner Jorge Mas paid for tickets so that a section of Inter Miami supporters group members and family could attend. He also helped arrange a plane for the players' families.
All will be hoping to see Messi lift his first trophy in the U.S. and an incredible 44th honor of his career.