Inter Miami criticized for Lionel Messi’s absence in Hong Kong match; Messi expresses desire to play in Tokyo.

Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi Faces Challenges on the Road to Success

The highly-anticipated partnership between global football icon Lionel Messi and MLS club Inter Miami has hit a few roadblocks. After a promising start, Messi’s performance declined due to injuries and inefficiency towards the end of last season.

During their extensive preseason tour in 2024, which included visits to El Salvador and Saudi Arabia, Messi and teammate Luis Suarez were sidelined for last Sunday’s match in Hong Kong due to injuries. This decision sparked outrage among fans, with some demanding ticket refunds. Nevertheless, Inter Miami managed to secure a 4-1 victory against Hong Kong XI.

Adding to the controversy, Inter Miami coach Gerardo Martino had initially stated that Messi would “likely” participate in the Hong Kong match. The event had been heavily promoted, and the organizer is now reportedly withdrawing $2 million in government grants due to Messi’s absence.

Hong Kong officials expressed their disappointment, stating, “The way that the organizer and Inter Miami handled the situation could not meet the expectations of the fans who showed strong support to Messi, especially those visitors who came all the way here for the match.” Kevin Yeung, Hong Kong’s sports, culture, and tourism secretary, revealed that the deal required Messi to play at least 45 minutes.

At 36 years old, Messi is part of a growing trend among aging sports stars who undergo load management plans, which involve strategic resting periods to preserve their performance. Inter Miami’s regular season consists of 34 matches, along with other competitions.

Despite these setbacks, Inter Miami is scheduled to play a friendly match against Newell’s Old Boys, Messi’s childhood club in Argentina, on February 15 after returning from Tokyo, where they will face J-League champions Vissel Kobe on Wednesday.

Messi remains hopeful about participating in the Tokyo friendly, expressing that he feels “much better” than a few days ago. However, during a press conference at a Tokyo hotel, he acknowledged the disappointment surrounding his absence in Hong Kong due to swelling in his adductor muscle.

While unsure about his involvement in Wednesday’s match against Vissel Kobe, Messi emphasized his desire to play and his willingness to assess his condition during training. He also expressed his hopes for another opportunity to play in Hong Kong, acknowledging the anticipation surrounding the event.

As Inter Miami and Lionel Messi navigate these challenges, fans eagerly await the return of the football superstar to the field, hoping for a triumphant season ahead.

Lionel Messi’s time with MLS club Inter Miami has been met with challenges. After suffering injuries and a decline in performance last season, Messi and teammate Luis Suarez missed a recent match in Hong Kong due to injuries, resulting in backlash from fans. The coach had previously stated that Messi would likely play in the match, leading to disappointment among fans and the withdrawal of government grants for the event. Inter Miami is currently on a preseason road trip and is set to play in Tokyo before returning for a match against Messi’s boyhood club, Newell’s Old Boys. Messi expressed hope to play in Japan, stating that he feels better than he did a few days ago but remains uncertain about his participation.

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