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Lionel Messi hint spotted as Inter Miami in must-win scenario to prevent career-first

Lionel Messi made an appearance out on the grass at Inter Miami training ahead of the team’s crunch MLS six-pointer versus New York City as they chase their playoffs dream.

The Argentine superstar’s fitness has been a major talking point for Vice City supporters in recent weeks after he missed four out of their last five matches. The 36-year-old’s ongoing scar tissue complaint saw him ruled out of Miami’s 2-1 loss in the US Open Cup final against Houston Dynamo.

In truth, his teammates struggled in his absence as they fell at the final hurdle in the cup final on Wednesday with a particularly listless display. The necessity for the club’s talisman to find his groove once more could not be more pressing either, with Miami’s post-season hopes now in last-chance saloon territory.

However, the sight of Messi clad in training apparel and walking on the turf at the Herons’ training base will have fans hoping his injury woes may be behind him at last. Prior to the final, he did not train and was instead spotted talking on the phone while his teammates were put through their paces.

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Inter Miami boss gives further Lionel Messi fitness update after he misses Cup final

Alongside fellow key performer Jordi Alba, he would eventually not even make the bench for the limp defeat against Houston. Instead both had to watch on from the stands as their team’s chance for a second piece of silverware of the campaign went up in smoke.

With Miami’s cup commitments now out of the way, head coach Gerardo Martino is all too aware of the task facing his players in MLS. Sitting five points off New York City in the final playoffs berth, with two games in hand on their rivals, it is now or never for his team if they are to qualify.

The Herons have five matches left to play of the regular season, meaning the uncertainty over captain Messi’s fitness is pretty ill-timed. Speaking after Miami’s cup final defeat, Martino admitted that his medical team had advised him to leave the star out of his squad for the showpiece.

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He said: “It was not prudent for him to play, too risky, even for a few minutes. He will play in league games going forward, but will go game by game based on what the medical team tells us.”

He was also not too positive about the general condition of his team after a long campaign which has included two cup runs, adding: ‘I saw a worn team, the consequence of so many matches. If this match went into extra time, the match Inter Miami has on Saturday would have to be played by the technical staff.”

If the Fort Lauderdale outfit are to miss out on the post-season, that will likely lead to the biggest layoff of-sorts of Messi’s club career so far. With no MLS commitments in the diary until the start of the 2024 campaign on February 24, that would equal a 95 day wait for the resumption of play.