Giannis Ougko Antetokounmpo was one the stars that lit up GEODIS Park in the lead-up to the Leagues Cup 2023 final. The NBA star was never going to miss the most important game of the tournament - not least given his prediction from back at the start of June: “Welcome to the MLS, Messi! See you at Nashville.”
The Greek-Nigerian basketball player, who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA, took a private jet to the city to make it to the clash between Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF. When he stepped off, he made his anticipation clear: “Nashville, we’re here, baby. I can’t wait for this game, it’s going to be a great game, an interesting game.”
The seven-foot power forward arrived hours before kick-off, and even went down to the pitch to take a symbolic penalty. The crowd was already heating up at that point, with history potentially in the making as Lionel Messi looks to become the most decorated player in soccer history.
What’s interesting is that Giannis Antetokounmpo predicted the match beforehand. In June, when the Argentine maestro’s signing for Inter Miami CF was confirmed, the NBA player put out a tweet: “Welcome to the MLS, Messi! See you at Nashville."
Just over two months after that tweet, Messi is playing in the city. What’s more, it’ll be in the final of the tournament. Antetokounmpo is watching from the front rows, not just as a spectator but also as a fundamental part of the home team.
Such is his passion for the sport, that earlier this year he acquired a minority stake in Nashville SC, along with his brothers. But his links to football aren’t just strictly business. He’s also forged relationships, as in the case of Messi's former FC Barcelona team-mate Neymar.
This week, the Brazilian player signed for Al-Hilal, a Saudi Arabian club, and the basketball player traveled to his unveiling and posted a photo with him: "Best duo in the Saudi league".
With the final getting underway, the stars in the building and the predictions all in, the stage is set. Who will come out on top tonight?