The lights of DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, shone brightly on Lionel Messi‘s return, casting a beacon of hope for Inter Miami’s fans. However, this hope was momentarily dimmed as Messi, the Argentine talisman, was seen walking off the pitch in the 37th minute of the game against Toronto FC. The reason? An all-too-familiar scene of muscle fatigue.
A moment earlier, the crowd had witnessed Jordi Alba, another revered name from FC Barcelona fame, leave the field. While no crunching tackles or glaring injuries were evident, both players emanated an air of discomfort, unmistakable to the trained eye.
The substitution came after Messi’s lively start, with the forward missing a golden opportunity in the 23rd minute. His far-post volley, which soared over the bar from a rather close range, demonstrated that he was in the fray with his usual energy. However, that vibrancy was short-lived. The signs were there; Messi was seen stretching his right leg during play, and he removed his captain’s armband even before play halted. The sensation was evident, it wasn’t just fatigue – it was a culmination of minutes that had taken a toll on his body.
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Coach Gerardo Martino, in the aftermath of the game, revealed that both Lionel Messi and Alba would not be donning their jerseys against Orlando City SC this Sunday. His decision? To keep them in pristine shape for the U.S. Open Cup final against Houston Dynamo. “There is no chance they will be there on Sunday. We have a final to play [next Wednesday], and they won’t step on the grass if they aren’t fit,” Martino decisively commented. He further added, through an interpreter, “They trained normally, and I felt they were ready. I believe it’s fatigue. We’re cautious about any potential muscular injury.”
Despite the exit of these two heavyweights, Inter Miami did not skip a beat. The team demonstrated resilience and a collective effort, ultimately clinching a 4-0 victory over Toronto FC. With goals flowing from Robert Taylor and Benjamin Cremaschi, the home team had plenty to cheer about, even in the absence of their star duo.
But this short return raised eyebrows and brought to the surface some deeper concerns. Messi’s recent decisions to sit out matches, both at club and international level, indicate a pattern. Having missed recent fixtures like Argentina’s World Cup qualifying win at Bolivia and the setback against Atlanta United, Messi’s fatigue is a matter that can’t be overlooked.
Martino’s Inter Miami is currently on a jam-packed schedule with six games in a mere 17 days. Following Orlando and Houston’s encounters, they are pitted against New York City FC, Chicago Fire FC, and FC Cincinnati. As they chase that coveted playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, their journey will require every ounce of talent, resilience, and maybe a bit more of Messi’s magic.
Messi’s tenure at Miami has seen him participate in 11 matches, boasting 11 goals and five assists. His contribution has been undeniable, and while Miami rejoices in the stellar numbers, one can only hope that the Argentine legend’s fatigue is managed astutely.
After all, in the grand theater of football, a team’s true essence is only realized with its brightest star shining at its zenith. And for Inter Miami, Lionel Messi is that luminary.
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