Inter Miami manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino faces a crucial decision regarding Lionel Messi’s availability for his potential MLS debut this weekend. As the team prepares for their seventh game in just 23 days against the New York Red Bulls, Martino acknowledges the exhausting schedule and the toll it has taken on Messi. The 36-year-old superstar has played every minute of Miami’s last six games, displaying signs of fatigue during their U.S. Open Cup semifinal win. Martino acknowledges the inevitability of giving Messi some rest, but finding a solution is a challenging task.
Since Lionel Messi’s arrival at Inter Miami, the team has heavily relied on his exceptional abilities. With 10 goals and three assists in just eight appearances, Messi has exceeded all expectations. However, Miami currently finds itself at the bottom of the MLS’ Eastern Conference, 14 points away from the final playoff spot. Martino recognizes the significance of utilizing Messi as much as possible to improve the team’s position and increase their chances of a postseason run.
The hype surrounding Messi’s presence has resulted in skyrocketing ticket prices, reaching over $400 on secondary resale sites for Saturday’s game at the Red Bull Arena. Additionally, hundreds of fans eagerly await his arrival, camped outside the team hotel in the hope of catching a glimpse of their soccer hero. Martino acknowledges the global expectations but emphasizes the need to prioritize the player’s well-being over external pressures.
The primary concern for Martino is avoiding the potential injury of his star player by pushing him too hard. A single injury to Messi could derail any hope of a postseason run for Inter Miami. The manager acknowledges the outside noise but remains resolute in his decision to prioritize Messi’s health and long-term performance over short-term expectations.
One positive aspect for Martino is the increased depth in the team’s midfield. With veteran Jean Mota back from injury and new talents Diego Gómez and Facundo Farías integrated into the squad, Martino has more options to alleviate some of the burden on Messi. This depth provides an opportunity to rotate players and strategically manage Messi’s playing time, ensuring he stays at his best throughout the demanding schedule.
The challenges for Inter Miami don’t end with the game against the New York Red Bulls. Following this weekend’s match, Miami will face Nashville SC at home on Wednesday in a rematch of the Leagues Cup final, which Miami won on the road just days prior. The team will then have another away game on September 3rd against LAFC, a formidable opponent sitting in second place in the Western Conference. Martino must carefully consider the team’s upcoming fixtures and balance the need for results with the necessity of rest for Messi.
Inter Miami faces a critical challenge in managing Lionel Messi’s minutes. With a demanding schedule and the team’s desperate need for points, it is tempting to rely heavily on the superstar. However, Martino must prioritize Messi’s long-term health and performance over immediate expectations. With increased depth in the midfield, Martino has the means to strategically manage Messi’s playing time. Balancing the star player’s minutes and ensuring he remains injury-free will be crucial for Inter Miami’s playoff aspirations.