Without Lionel Messi, Inter Miami have been left scrambling to pick up results in a race against time.
With the Major League Soccer side embroiled in a furious chase for a playoff spot, Messi’s absence has left Inter Miami to sort out how to push for results without arguably the greatest player in the world.
Inter Miami were humbled in the U.S. Open Cup final without Messi, dominated by the Houston Dynamo in a 2-1 home defeat, failing to secure the trophy at the last hurdle.
Now, the Inter Miami medical staff are under pressure to get Messi back on the pitch for as many minutes as possible, knowing that a playoff berth could be at risk with every negative result.
When will Lionel Messi return for Inter Miami?
We know very little about the injury which Lionel Messi has suffered, and therefore it’s difficult to surmise when he will be back on the field.
Inter Miami have continued to insist that his injury is simply “muscle fatigue” and that there is no structural damage for Messi to overcome. Yet as the days go by and he misses more time, that facade feels less and less plausible.
Head coach Gerardo Martino said in the run-up to the U.S. Open Cup final that they would “wait until the last moment” to decide whether Messi would play, and ultimately he wasn’t in the matchday squad.
“He wasn’t cleared to play,” Martino said after the September 27 defeat to Houston. “He wasn’t even considered to play even a few minutes.”
Martino insisted that Messi would return to action at some point before the end of the regular season, which concludes on October 21 with a visit to Charlotte FC. However, Inter Miami’s position in the standings relative to the final playoff position is likely to affect how quickly they bring Messi back to action.
At this point, very little is known about when Messi could make his return to the pitch. However, it’s likely that even when he does rejoin the action, his minutes will be managed carefully and the toll on his body will be treated with extreme caution.
What is Lionel Messi’s injury?
Inter Miami head coach Gerardo Martino has largely insisted that “fatigue” is to blame for Lionel Messi’s absence, but he did offer a bit more of a detailed explanation.
Tata stated that Messi is suffering from a recurrence of a scar tissue problem in his left leg. “Basically, Leo is still dealing with an old scar tissue problem,” Martino said on September 22 prior to the 1-1 draw against Orlando City. “It’s bothersome. I don’t know if it hurts. I can’t really explain as it’s more a medical topic,” he added.
Messi was first troubled in the late stages of Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Ecuador on September 7, which saw him withdrawn in the 89th minute. As Messi is hardly ever substituted for club or country, it was notable that he came off the field before the final whistle.
Then, Messi was held out of Argentina’s next match, which saw the Albiceleste top Bolivia in the La Paz altitude 3-0, which further rang alarm bells for Inter Miami.
Messi returned to club action and was rested for a road match against Atlanta United, which Inter Miami lost 5-2, but he started the next game against Toronto FC. It was there which Messi picked up his current issue, withdrawn in the 37th minute and seen limping off the pitch.
Still, Inter Miami continued to insist that there was no actual structural damage, and that “fatigue” was to blame with regards to the scar tissue flare-up. He sat out a weekend draw with Orlando City before missing the U.S. Open Cup final defeat to the Houston Dynamo.
Inter Miami blame fixture congestion for Lionel Messi injury
Facing the loss of his superstar for an unknown amount of time, Inter Miami head coach Gerardo Martino offered up the excuse that fixture congestion is beginning to take its toll on not just Messi, but the entire squad.
“This could have happened, it was logical for it to happen, even,” Martino said of the defeat to the Houston Dynamo. “We’re all pretending that a team that just two or three months ago was just going from here to there now functions at a level that’s very difficult to maintain.”
“We have started to feel the consequences of the amount of games we’ve played,” Martino then concluded.
He even admitted that his lack of rotation during the furious Leagues Cup run last month has clearly taken its toll, with Lionel Messi joining via his summer transfer and immediately playing heavy minutes. From July 22 to August 20, Messi played in all seven of Inter Miami’s Leagues Cup matches, starting six of them and logging 594 minutes.
“We knew advancing in the Leagues Cup would have a price, especially because we did more movement in the summer and added more players and others who came from European football,” Martino said.
“We knew we were going to pay a price somewhere, but we cannot complain; we must see the positive side. We came from a place where we were the farthest from our objectives in the league standings to where we are today, the amount of points we now have.”
Inter Miami remaining fixtures, schedule for Lionel Messi return
It’s unclear to what extent Lionel Messi is injured, but with such a heavy fixture list coming up for Inter Miami, he could be at risk of missing some time in the near future, even if it turns out his problem isn’t too serious.
Inter Miami have five matches remaining in the MLS regular season, chasing a playoff spot and needing points from each game left.
Even more critically, the U.S. Open Cup final loomed on the schedule, and Inter Miami saw an opportunity to win another trophy evaporate as Messi sat on the sidelines.
Martino said that he “doesn’t know” when Messi or Jordi Alba will be available, and added that regardless of the importance of the upcoming matches, “they won’t go near the pitch if they can’t play.”