Inter Miami coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino would not commit to superstar Lionel Messi making his Major League Soccer debut in Saturday night's road match against the New York Red Bulls.
Martino said Messi is fatigued after the 36-year-old played every minute of Miami's past six matches, including the club's run to the Leagues Cup title and a U.S. Open Cup semifinal win over FC Cincinnati that required overtime.
"It is inevitable that we will not have him at some point," Martino said Friday, adding that the staff needed to assess how Messi felt after practice.
Messi joined Miami in July and came off the bench in his debut July 21, the Leagues Cup opener against Cruz Azul of Mexico. He scored 10 goals in the club's seven Leagues Cup matches and had two assists in the win over Cincinnati.
As a result of the schedule, Saturday is Messi's first chance to play in a regular-season MLS match. Ticket prices at the Red Bulls' arena in Harrison, N.J., have reportedly skyrocketed on the secondary market.
"I understand the expectations the rest of the world has to watch him, and that is undeniable," Martino said. "But I cannot act based on that because then I would risk doing things wrong."
Another consideration for Martino is Miami's playoff prospects. Though Messi has already helped Miami win its first trophy of any kind, he joined a club in last place in the Eastern Conference (5-14-3, 18 points), 14 points out of a playoff spot with 12 matches to go.
—Field Level Media