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Sergio Busquets speaks on his injury, Inter Miami season start, his love of U.S. sports

Sergio Busquets, one of the most revered midfielders of all time, is best known for rarely being noticed.

The 35-year-old Spaniard, who joined former FC Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi at Inter Miami last summer, won a World Cup and nine La Liga titles by influencing the game quietly, away from the cameras.

As a deep-lying defensive midfielder, his job is to be in the right place, read the field, control the tempo of the game, block passing lanes, decide when to play a short pass and when to go long, and, whenever he can, get the ball to Messi, or, to the intermediary teammate, who will then get it to Messi.

In the words of colorful soccer commentator Ray Hudson: “Sergio Busquets takes pressure and wears it like a diamond necklace.”

Playing with Barcelona and the Spanish national team, he never had to do a whole lot of running and chasing. When he, Messi, and Jordi Alba, another former Barcelona teammate, arrived in South Florida last July, Hudson predicted it would take time for the trio to get adapted to Major League Soccer.

“It’s not going to be easy for Tata (Martino) to integrate them into the team, this is going to take time,” Hudson told the Miami Herald. “We will not see it this season, I can almost guarantee you. You’ll see improvement, you’ll see the promise of magic coming through before your eyes, between the three of them magical connected football, just like they did in Barcelona, embroidered by silk thread of skillful beauty.

“They were like three dolphins chattering to each other in their own language. Nobody understood it. And they’re still more than capable of playing world class football. But can Tata create the right mix around them and improve his team to be the setting for these spectacular diamonds?”

Two games into the 2024 season, Martino is still trying to create the right mix, trying to find a perfect partner to play alongside Busquets so that the Spaniard can do what he does best.

Dixon Arroyo, the Ecuadorean who paired well with Busquets during last summer’s Leagues Cup championship run, was let go at the end of the season. Key Biscayne teenager Benjamin Cremaschi, who also worked well with Busquets last season, started this season on the injured list after sports hernia surgery and is expected to miss another month.

Inter Miami signed Julian Gressel from the Columbus Crew and he is still finding his rhythm with new teammates.

As a result of the changes, and a preseason ankle sprain that he admitted Wednesday was not 100 percent healed, Busquets looked uncomfortable at times during the season-opening 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake and the 1-1 tie with the LA Galaxy.

Newly signed Galaxy winger Joseph Paintsil got past Busquets in the 11th minute of Sunday’s game, and Busquets, trying to catch up, put his hand on Paintsil’s shoulder, and was called for a foul. Although it was not an aggressive foul, the call was upheld after a video review and Los Angeles was awarded a penalty kick.

Busquets’ former Barcelona teammate Riqui Puig took the PK, and Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender made a spectacular save to keep the game scoreless.

Ten minutes later, Busquets was shown a yellow card for another foul on Paintsil, as once again, he found himself chasing the Ghanian winger. Busquets got more camera time than he would have liked.

Wednesday morning before training, as the team prepared for Saturday’s home game against Orlando City, Busquets spoke to the media about the start of the season, his injury, the arrival of Argentine U23 national team midfielder Federico Redondo, Luis Suarez, the ejection of Galaxy player Mark Delgado, and his love of U.S. sports.

Inter Miami midfielder Sergio Busquets speaks to the media before practice on Feb. 28, 2024
Inter Miami midfielder Sergio Busquets speaks to the media before practice on Feb. 28, 2024

On his ankle sprain: “It was difficult for me to get back to a good feeling on the field after the injury in Japan because I’m not 100 percent. I’m playing with pain. I missed some training time, missed the (final preseason) game against Newell’s, but I wanted to play in the first game. Little by little I am feeling better. The ankle is not as swollen and I can move better, but it is still stiff and bothers me a little bit. But each day I am getting better.”

On the team’s performance through two games: “We started well, with the result we wanted. On Sunday we wanted to win, but the tie was just. It was not our best game. At the start of a season, it’s always difficult. We still have to get adjusted, await injured players to recuperate, hopefully we can play well this Saturday at home in the Clasico.”

On what changed in the midfield after the departure of Arroyo: “Dixon’s player profile was more someone who played alongside me, close by, to create balance. Julian runs more, goes forward, can play multiple positions but has offensive characteristics. It all depends on the opponent as to what type of player (Martino) will pick for each game.”

On what Redondo will add to the team once he clears visa paperwork: “Hopefully he can join us soon because he will help us a lot. He is a high-quality player who will give us that balance we need. He controls the ball well, sees his teammates, has experience, and is coming off pre-Olympic tournament, so he will help us.”

On Luis Suarez’s level of play so far: “It’s a new league, we all need a period of adaptation. Not just him, but all of us as a team. We are changing, fixing things, some things left to improve.”

On what needs to improve: “We have to defend better in the low block, take more control of the ball, fewer turnovers.”

On the second yellow card given to the Galaxy’s Mark Delgado in the 87th minute of Sunday’s game, which led to his ejection (Messi scored in the 92nd minute, while LA was a man down): “There definitely was contact, but it was very light, and it was the decision of the official to give the card. I didn’t even see him take out the card because I had my back turned.”

On whether Delgado’s red card influenced the result of the game: “The way the game was going, surely it did. Our goal came after the expulsion and playing a man down can always influence the game, but it was the official’s decision and there is nothing we can do about it.”

On watching other U.S. sports, as he has taken his family to see the Marlins, Dolphins, and Panthers: “I have always loved all sports, in Europe, and now in the U.S. We can see different elite sports than we saw in Spain, so I’m delighted to enjoy Miami sports with my family.”