Lionel Messi Inter Miami
Lionel Messi celebrates scoring Inter Miami's second goal with team-mate Robert Taylor -- Messi and Taylor scored twice each in the 4-0 win over Atlanta United AFP News/CHANDAN KHANNA

Nashville SC boss Gary Smith has admitted he is astounded by the impact Lionel Messi has had on Inter Miami. Smith, however, also assured that Messi's presence won't scare his side ahead of the Leagues Cup final.

Inter Miami, who are still chasing their first-ever silverware, have emerged as a rejuvenated side with Messi leading from the front. The Fort Lauderdale side's transformation on the pitch over the last few weeks is closely being monitored by rival clubs.

'I'm out of adjectives to describe Miami's transformation'

Ahead of the Leagues Cup final, Nashville boss Smith spoke about Inter Miami's recent games.

"We were lucky enough to watch a good portion of the [Inter Miami vs Philadelphia Union] game before ours really got underway in the pregame. It's absolutely astounding, amazing, I think we've run out of adjectives to describe what's gone on in Miami," Smith said.

"They're playing such good football, they're scoring goals, they look a side that's unrecognisable from a month ago. I've never in all my time in football seen a transformation of a team that we're currently seeing," the former Colorado Rapids boss added.

The Eastern Conference sides from Major League Soccer (MLS) are set to come face to face in the Leagues Cup final on Saturday. Smith's Nashville defeated Concacaf giants Monterrey in the semi-finals, while Inter Miami overcame Philadelphia Union. Even though the Leagues Cup final is at Geodis Park, Nashville's home ground, the Messi-led Inter Miami are looking to go into the big fixture as favourites.

Gary Smith: Nashville won't be starstruck by Messi's Inter Miami

While Smith undoubtedly has plenty of respect for the Herons' recent performances, he was quick to add that Nashville won't be caught in the moment against a star-studded Inter Miami.

"I do believe that in a Cup final, and at home, we'll be prepared. There'll certainly be no fear in the way that we play. And we'll try and give ourselves the very best opportunity to do what nobody else has done at the moment, which is beat Miami," added Smith, who has been in charge of Nashville since 2020.

After not signing a renewal with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), Messi moved to Inter Miami this summer as a free agent. Since his arrival, the Herons have managed to rope in Messi's former FC Barcelona teammates Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets and that further strengthened the team.

Both Messi and Alba took the fans on a journey of nostalgia by recreating their magic from Barcelona as they notched a goal each against Philadelphia in the semi-final.

Inter Miami will hope Messi continues to deliver

It was Messi's ninth goal in six matches and the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner has managed to be on the goal sheet in every match he has played for Inter Miami so far.

Messi's goal against Philadelphia not only left Inter Miami fans animated but also the home fans in a charged up Subaru Park. The former Barcelona skipper scored the goal from 30 yards out as Inter Miami reached their maiden Leagues Cup final.

After Venezuelan striker Josef Martinez opened the scoring for Inter Miami just three minutes into the game, Messi was somehow left unguarded just past midfield. The Argentinian forward then received a pass from Martinez and dribbled forward before firing a shot from distance in the 20th minute, beating Philadelphia's defense and then goalkeeper Andre Blake, who was slow to react.

The victory against Philadelphia also saw Inter Miami secure a spot in the continental competition, the Concacaf Champions Cup, for the first time.

Messi, who is just six matches into the Leagues Cup - a competition that includes teams from MLS and Liga MX - has already become the all-time top scorer, with nine goals.