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Lionel Messi misses Inter Miami defeat: Why was he rested?

March 10, 2024, by MLS Soccer Staff | Courtesy of

Inter Miami CF head coach Gerardo Martino implemented his first major squad rotation of the 2024 MLS season during Matchday 4, most notably giving Lionel Messi the day off in Sunday’s 3-2 home loss to CF Montréal.

Fellow FC Barcelona legends Luis Suárez and Sergio Busquets both came off the bench as well, as the Herons suffered their first league setback ahead of Wednesday’s Concacaf Champions Cup Round-of-16 second leg against Nashville SC at Chase Stadium (8:15 pm ET).

Miami have two away goals in their favor after earning a 2-2 draw in last week’s opening CCC match at Nashville, and Messi – who suffered a shin injury in Leg 1 – was rested with the final 90 minutes of the series in mind.

“We spoke it over about a week ago and we agreed that this would be the game for him to rest,” Martino revealed post-match about Messi not even making the matchday squad, dismissing any concerns the superstar No. 10 was suffering any physical problems or setbacks.

“Regardless of what happened [last week] in Nashville, we agreed that he should rest this game.”

And so the Messi-less Herons found themselves in an early hole after Fernando Álvarez (13') gave Montréal a surprise lead. Leonardo Campanaleveled for the hosts deep into the second half, only for Matías Cóccaro(75’) and Sunusi Ibrahim (78’) to score in quick succession and put the game away for Miami – despite Jordi Alba’s late golazo and Miami’s onslaught.

“I think we deserved to win, by a large margin,” Martino said. “What worries me is that we’re a team that doesn’t defend with strength in the moments it needs to defend – be it balls in movement, dead balls. We didn’t start well, the first 10-15 minutes were poor. In reality, the opponent scored two goals off of dead balls. And we put in most of the effort during the game.”

Even with Sunday’s result, Miami remain atop the Eastern Conference table with a 2W-1L-1D record. Asked about the changes to his starting XI, Martino suggested this could be the first of many rotations as the Herons chase numerous trophies in 2024.

“Ten days ago I was asked if we were going to rotate,” Tata said. “And today we rotated. There’s no other answer.”

"... It was planned this way: 60 minutes for Fede [Redondo] because he had less minutes in him, 30 minutes for Sergio [Busquets]. The same with [Julian] Gressel, not playing him more than 60 minutes and for Diego Gómez, who's also played an important amount of minutes, to go 30 minutes."

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