The Argentina World Cup winner has been struggling with a scar tissue problem from an old injury to a leg muscle. Miami left it right until the very last possible moment to decide on what role the 36-year-old will have.
But the alarm bells were ringing for Miami fans when the team turned up at the DRV PNK Stadium for the final and Messi was nowhere to be seen. He was later seen in the stadium to cheer his team on but he was dressed in his own clothes and not in Miami colors.
Messi was substituted off in the 37th minute of the 4-0 win over Toronto in Major League Soccer last Wednesday and missed the weekend’s 1-1 tie with Toronto.
Sergio Busquets, meanwhile, has returned to the team after the midfielder was also rested for Orlando.
Defender Jordi Alba, who followed Busquets to Miami from Barcelona to reunite with Messi, misses the game injured.
But all the attention the build-up was on Messi, to the point where Martino admitted to being deliberately evasive over the star’s condition.
‘I have to give info that could change the opponent’s game plan. Why should I give that info if I can keep it to myself?’ said Martino. ‘I know that goes against people’s interests as to buy tickets or not, but we have to prioritize things as they are, and what we want is to win the game.
‘He doesn’t need surgery or anything like that. It’s just a matter of how much time the player needs to rest in order to play the next game.
‘If it wasn’t a final, we wouldn’t take any risks. But because it’s a final, there is a chance we take that risk.’