The superstar from Argentina, Lionel Messi, is often seen walking a lot during matches, but for those who have followed Messi’s career closely, this comes as no surprise.
It has become quite clear that at some point, Inter Miami will have to win without Lionel Messi. They managed to do just that in their recent match, a 2-0 victory against New York Red Bulls, where Messi came off the bench and scored an impressive decisive goal.
However, it was just a brief appearance, and having Messi come on for a moment is still a significant advantage for Miami in MLS. This luxury might not last much longer as Miami prepares for a future without their star.
But how can Miami win without him, and why does Messi have to miss games when the season is reaching its crucial moments?
The answer to the first question will be revealed in the coming months, while the answer to the latter question has become clear in recent weeks. As Miami strives to make a surprise push for the playoffs, head coach Tata Martino has been preparing for life without Messi.
There’s a reason Messi started on the bench in the game against Red Bulls: he needed rest.
Since arriving in Miami, Messi has played in eight matches in just over a month before making his MLS debut. These matches took place in different cities, and Miami was fortunate to host some of them during the Leagues Cup.
This is quite a demanding schedule for a 36-year-old player who has just returned from a break. Messi has put his heart and soul into Miami since arriving, and he seems happier than ever doing so, but the reality is he’s no longer at an age where he can play two or three matches per week for several months in a row.
“Leo and many other players are reaching a limit in terms of physical fitness,” Martino said last week. “From now on, we’ll start assessing how to deal with at least the next three matches. You also have to consider the large number of games we’ve played in about 45, 50 days.”
So, Martino had Messi on the bench for the first 30 minutes of the Red Bulls match. He came on when Miami was already leading by one goal, and by the end of the game, they were two goals ahead thanks to Messi’s brilliance.
Walking but Still Shining When Needed
However, there have been questions surrounding Messi’s need for rest. Why does a player famous for walking and conserving energy need rest?
Especially in recent years, Messi’s walking style has become quite famous. According to statistics, he walked more than any other player at the 2022 World Cup, leaving his Argentina teammates to do the hard work while he conjured up moments of magic.
However, Messi’s walking isn’t a sign of laziness; it’s a deliberate tactic. He’s like a coiled snake, waiting for the right moment to strike. The moment the opposition defense loses sight of him for just a second, he bursts past them to score crucial goals.
Still, some argue that Messi’s playing style should make him less dependent on rest, with former U.S. men’s national team star Alexi Lalas pointing out that Messi’s legs might not get as tired as some of his teammates.
“Load management? Messi walks around the field most of the time,” Lalas tweeted. “Don’t fret. Messi walks… until he doesn’t.”
Messi Won’t Miss National Team Duties
It’s not just MLS matches that make Messi tired. No, the Argentine player also has upcoming international duties.
Messi will join the Argentine national team in the upcoming international break, taking place from September 4th to September 12th. This means he won’t be able to play in the match against Sporting KC on the ninth.
Another international break is scheduled for October, and Inter Miami has a game the day after Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Peru on the 17th.
When it comes to international breaks, we have to consider the travel, pressure, and fatigue. Therefore, Martino believes Messi might miss three matches out of the remaining 11 in the season.
“This is something we have to get used to,” Martino said. “He will miss at least three matches – he will be called up by the national team – and we need to keep winning.”
Not Only Messi…
Messi isn’t the only star of Inter Miami who might miss time for international duty. No, the club could potentially be decimated by call-ups in the next two months.
DeAndre Yedlin, Josef Martinez, Drake Callendar, Kamal Miller, Diego Gomez, Leo Campana, Robert Taylor, Serhiy Kryvtsov, David Ruiz, Edson Azcona, and Benjamin Cremachi all have the potential to be involved in international matches in the next two breaks. Not all are guaranteed to leave, and some may stay, but the possibility of losing many players at any given time is a challenging prospect as Miami aims for a spot in the playoffs.
The good news is that the club has strengthened its squad this summer, and Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba are clearly ready to lead in Messi’s absence. Players like Facundo Farias are sure to seize the opportunity, while the club has done well to develop some local talents, as mentioned earlier. Not all of them will be called up for international duty.
Another piece of good news? Martino shared some information about future seasons, stating that MLS is planning to eliminate the controversial extended schedule that teams had to play during international breaks.
“I understand they are looking into it for next year,” Martino said. “It’s possible that it will happen.”
However, navigating both the future and the present will be a tough challenge, especially with Miami struggling in MLS.
A Challenging Situation for Inter Miami
The victory against Red Bulls has boosted Inter Miami’s confidence, as it has shown they can maintain their form from cup competitions to league matches.
However, it’s a challenging road ahead for Messi and his teammates if they want to secure a spot in the playoffs.
With 11 matches remaining, Miami is currently 11 points behind the playoff position. The good news is they have some games in hand compared to the teams above them. The bad news is that they have a significant deficit to make up, and there are several teams they need to surpass.
With Messi, it can be said that they have a chance. He has indeed produced moments of magic – although making up many points in such a short time might be an impossible task, even for him. However, if Miami is without Messi for more than a quarter of those matches, it will demand something historic.
So, Martino will have to make some tough decisions. How far will he push his team and his superstar to secure a playoff spot that might not even happen? It’s a difficult reality that Miami is facing as they race towards the end of the season.