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LAFC defender Giorgio Chiellini said Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami are the “best” team he’s faced in MLS after a 3-1 loss at home for the Southern California club, and backed them as a possible playoff contender.

“This team [Miami] is the best, by far, that I’ve faced in MLS to be honest,” said the 39-year-old former Italy international defender. “Yeah, by far.”

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Led by two assists from Messi, Miami did well to contain an LAFC side that weren’t able to capitalize on chances at their raucous home ground at BMO Stadium, which was filled with an eclectic group of celebrities in attendance like LeBron James, Leonardo Di Caprio and Rage Against The Machine.

Following the defeat LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo was blunt when asked in the post-game news conference about Messi’s impact in MLS.

“He’s the best player in the world, what did you think he was going to do when he came here,” said a dejected Cherundolo.

With two assists on Sunday, Messi brought up his totals to 11 goals and five assists in 11 games played in all competitions with Miami. Thanks to his form, Miami are undefeated in those 11 appearances, extending their ongoing club record that began with Messi’s arrival in July.

The former last placed team in MLS’ Eastern Conference now have just nine games left to move from 14th to at least ninth to be in the playoff conversation, but Chiellini expects to see them in the postseason.

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“I think that they will join the playoffs,” said the former Champions League finalist.

Chiellini also praised Messi for what he’s done with both Miami and the league overall.

“The arrival of Leo in this league, it’s very good, not just for Miami and for the game, but for the attention that everyone now gives to the MLS. It’s a huge step for this league,” stated the defender.

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