Benjamín Cremaschi is living a dream. The 18-year-old Miami native has earned valuable minutes at club level with Inter Miami of MLS, playing alongside Messi since the superstar’s arrival in July. In doing so, the promising youngster has become an integral part of Inter Miami head coach Tata Martino’s tactics.

Last week, things got even better: Cremaschi earned a call-up to the senior U.S. men’s national team for U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter’s first camp back in charge. The U.S. plays a friendly against Uzbekistan this Saturday in St. Louis, then plays Oman in Minnesota on Tuesday.

Though he’s been seen for some time as a promising youth prospect, Cremaschi’s call-up was still something of a surprise. He’s still a teenager who has only played in 20 official MLS matches, though he has proven capable of playing at the MLS level. Cremaschi has developed important chemistry with Messi in the final third, evidenced by his assist during Inter Miami’s 2-0 win over Red Bull New York. Messi created the chance on his own, but Cremaschi’s quick decision-making in a tight space was impressive.



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The question is whether Cremaschi has shown enough to be called into a senior national team camp, or whether that’s even necessary. Youth and inexperience are often overlooked in international football, especially for dual-national players. Spain, for example, included 16-year-old Barcelona winger Lamine Yamal in its squad for two European Championship qualifiers versus Georgia and Cyprus. Yamal could become Spain’s youngest-ever international, but he is also eligible to represent Morocco

For Cremaschi, the other nation in the picture is Argentina – a fact that has made his name well-known far beyond Fort Lauderdale. He has done several interviews with Argentina’s biggest news outlets, saying plenty about Messi and the whirlwind experience that he’s currently living. “This has all been crazy for me,” Cremaschi told ESPN Argentina on August 13.

In that interview, Cremaschi revealed that he has had conversations with both the U.S. and Argentine federations.

“Obviously, I’m going to have to make a decision later,” he said. “Having Messi can influence a bit. But there’s time.”

Indeed, even if Cremaschi appears for the U.S. in this upcoming window, he could still choose to represent Argentina if they call him – appearances in friendlies like the ones upcoming for the U.S. do not cap-tie a player to a certain nation.

For now, if only from a media perspective, having Cremaschi in camp is a good play by Berhalter and U.S. Soccer. It’s an opportunity to hear Cremaschi talk about representing the U.S. across all of the program’s social media channels while wearing USMNT gear.

“All we try to do is put our best foot forward,” Berhalter said in regards to recruiting Cremaschi as a dual-national. “We try to let the environment speak for itself. We try to let the staffing and the player pool speak for itself and what we can offer the player. We talked to Ben about being able to come into the group and fit into what we’re doing to represent the United States of America, which is a wonderful honor.”



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The reality on pitch is quite clear. Cremaschi has plenty of work to do in order to be seriously considered by any of Argentina’s men’s teams. He was part of an Argentina U-20 training in 2022 as a 17-year-old, but he didn’t make the final roster for the South American U-20 Championships or the U-20 World Cup. He reportedly turned down a chance to join the U.S. U-20 World Cup team in that same time, according to Apple TV’s Taylor Twellman.

Cremaschi was also not in the squad selected by Argentina U-23 coach Javier Mascherano for an upcoming friendly against Bolivia on Sept. 9. He faced stiff competition. The players on Mascherano’s U-23 list who also train under World Cup-winning manager Lionel Scaloni during the upcoming FIFA window include Manchester United’s Alejandro Garnacho, FC Dallas’ Alan Velasco, Thiago Almada of Atlanta United, Facundo Buonaotte of Brighton, newly signed Fiorentina striker Lucas Beltrán and Chelsea’s Enzo Fernandez, who became a starter under Scaloni since the World Cup group stage in Qatar.

All that said, Cremaschi’s place in the Argentina pecking order could change if he performs well under Berhalter. His most sensible pathway should include meaningful games at the U-23 level, since he is age-eligible for the 2024 Summer Olympics, where men’s soccer is run as a U-23 tournament. Perhaps that will be the competition that forces him to make his first serious decision about his national team loyalties.

Regardless of where he ends up, Cremaschi will have truly arrived when coverage in Argentina and elsewhere becomes more about his ability and less about his international future, or his relationship with Messi.

Cremaschi is a confident player who has improved over this season, benefiting from the swagger that Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba have brought to Inter Miami. With his age and profile, he is trending towards an opportunity to eventually play abroad. The Athletic asked Cremaschi in July if playing with Messi trumped a move to Europe.

“It’s a good question,” Cremaschi said following Inter Miami’s 2-1 win over Cruz Azul. “For now I’m focused on my day-to-day and I’m really involved with the club. If an opportunity arises to go to Europe I’ll obviously consider it. I’ll think about it, but for now I’m enjoying playing with our No. 10.”

Cremaschi likens his profile to that of Argentina and Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodrigo De Paul. “He’s a player who I really admire because of the way he plays,” Cremaschi told ESPN Argentina.

De Paul is one of the world’s most tenacious midfielders. He has also been dubbed as Messi’s personal chaperone on the pitch. Cremaschi told ESPN that he wants to help Inter Miami and protect Messi like De Paul. He sounded like a starstruck Messi fan when he said that, but the sentiment was genuine.

Cremaschi is a selfless player with incredible stamina. He also occupies a lot of the same areas on the field as De Paul, but that’s where the comparison with De Paul should end. The 29-year-old De Paul is valued at €40 million ($42.7 million) according to a June report on Transfermarkt. While both players are box-to-box midfielders, Cremaschi excels as an advanced playmaker in a central role, where he usually plays for Miami under Martino.

In Martino’s 4-3-3, Busquets and Dixon Arroyo hold their positions, while Cremaschi, when he starts centrally, has the freedom to find the ball and attack vertically. In fact, it’s more accurate to compare Cremaschi to the type of player that Martino was at Newell’s in the 1980s and ‘90s. Martino was a midfield playmaker who was constantly around the ball. He would likely admit that he didn’t run nearly as much as Cremaschi, however, Martino’s experience in that role bodes well for his young starlet.

Cremaschi is comfortable playing between the lines and in half-spaces. He’s also confident in his passing ability close to the opponent’s goal. He has four regular season assists this season and two more in cup play. He has also scored the winning penalty in two shootouts. First against FC Dallas in Leagues Cup round of 16 and again to defeat FC Cincinnati in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal.

Furthermore, Cremaschi grew up playing rugby which explains why he doesn’t shy away from physical challenges. He can press, defend in open space and play in transition. During his first MLS season, Cremaschi has proven to be highly versatile, too. He has played on both wings and as a right fullback when Inter Miami suffered a rash of injuries earlier in the year – that much is clear from his touch map from this season involving every Miami game pre-Messi as well.

On a call with reporters on Wednesday, Berhalter said that Cremaschi’s “tenacity” and “relentless” caught his attention during a pre-World Cup camp last October. Berhalter, like Martino, plays in a preferred 4-3-3 setup.

“He was playing out of position during that camp,” said Berhalter. “As a winger sometimes as a forward, but he never quit. He never gave up, he kept running. I mean, he was running himself silly. It really showed me what his mindset was like and I was really impressed with that. And now watching his progress with Inter Miami. He’s done a great job and this it’s not only post-Messi. I think it’s even pre-Messi. I think he’s a very talented player.”

No matter what his future holds, at present, Cremaschi is in dreamland. Few players of age are given opportunities like the one that he has taken full advantage of. To coexist with Messi, Busquets and Alba in a competitive environment is simply too good to be true.

“This is the best thing that could’ve happened to me,” said Cremaschi last month. “Having Tata and those three players, people with a lot of experience who have been at elite levels. To absorb everything from them is great not just for me but for every young player at the club.”

(Photo: John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images for USSF)