Ahead of the new MLS season, Coach Tata Martino asserts that Inter Miami fans need not worry when Lionel Messi is not playing.
“We have a responsibility to ensure the team performs well even when key players are absent,” Coach Martino stated in the Miami Herald on January 16. “If Messi, Busquets, or Alba have to sit out, we will still have a highly competitive team. That’s an important message.”
Martino also predicts the possibility of players taking breaks for various reasons. The former Barcelona, Argentina, and Mexico coach emphasizes the importance of rotating the squad to ensure players stay healthy and perform well throughout the season.
Messi (left) helped Inter Miami secure their first-ever title, the Leagues Cup 2023, in August last year in the United States. Photo: EFE
Martino also declares his refusal to yield to fans’ demands to field injured players. He prioritizes the players’ physical condition over the fans’ sentiments and desires. “I want them to play every game, but we can’t only focus on selling tickets. If they are healthy, they will play most matches,” Martino adds.
Last season, after helping Inter Miami win the Leagues Cup, Messi had to take an extended break due to an injury. Facing pressure from fans to include Messi in the lineup, Coach Martino took a risk and paid a hefty price. The injury worsened, and the 36-year-old player missed the latter part of the season. Messi’s absence also contributed to losses in the U.S. National Cup final and the MLS playoffs. Messi’s performance in Inter Miami’s colors currently stands at 14 matches, 11 goals, and five assists.
The new Inter Miami lineup for the upcoming season will feature the addition of Luis Suarez. The forward, who scored 198 goals in 283 appearances for Barca, joined the American team on a free transfer from Gremio, the runner-up in the 2023 Brazilian Championship. Inter Miami now boasts four former Barca stars, including Messi, Suarez, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba.
Inter Miami will participate in four competitions in the 2024 season, including MLS, the U.S. National Cup, Leagues Cup, and the CONCACAF Champions League. Prior to their opening match against Real Salt Lake on February 22, Martino’s team will embark on a pre-season tour in Asia. On February 1, they will face off against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia.