Lionel Messi will not play for Miami against Atlanta United

Inter Miami's Lionel Messi reacts to his goal during the Leagues Cup semifinals soccer match...
Inter Miami's Lionel Messi reacts to his goal during the Leagues Cup semifinals soccer match against the Philadelphia Union, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023, in Chester, Pa. Inter Miami won 4-1. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)(Chris Szagola | AP)
Published: Sep. 16, 2023 at 12:44 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 16, 2023 at 4:40 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Inter Miami CF will roll into Atlanta Saturday to play Atlanta United, but Miami’s biggest star won’t be in the starting lineup — or likely even in the city.

According to multiple sources, Lionel Messi did not travel with the team to Atlanta due to fatigue. A reporter with ESPN Argentina first reported the news Friday night. The Miami Herald confirmed it on Saturday.

Inter Miami CF posted its starting lineup late Saturday afternoon, which did not include Messi.

More than 72,000 fans are expected to pack Mercedes-Benz Stadium today. The hype surrounding this game has been through the roof since it was announced the superstar be joining the MLS.

FIFA’s international break just wrapped up, with Messi seeing action for his native Argentina in World Cup qualification against Ecuador. Messi scored the only goal in Argentina’s 1-0 win over Ecuador.

Inter Miami CF manager and former Atlanta skipper Tata Martino told the media on Friday that Messi is “fine” but went on to say that a decision about whether he’d play or not would come after the final training. We have not heard from him since.

“We will be careful with him because we have a lot of important games in a short span,” Martino told the media.

On Friday night, Messi was not featured in any of the social media images and video of the team’s departure. The greatest soccer player in the world took to his personal Instagram page with 487 million followers and posted a video of a pizza dinner from a restaurant in Miami.

On Saturday morning, video and photos surfaced of Messi watching the Inter Miami Academy team — where his son Thiago plays — in Miami.

Earlier this season, rumors abounded that Lionel Messi refuses to play on artificial turf. The rumors started after a British tabloid first reported it in July. Messi had never played on turf in his senior career because every major European stadium uses natural grass. The tabloid reported that he was unwilling to play on turf in MLS, where six stadiums use turf for their playing surface.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium uses artificial turf for its field and Atlanta United CEO Garth Lagerway has stated that the team has no plans to install grass solely to accommodate Messi. Messi later squashed the rumors at a press conference in August, saying “The truth is, my whole youth was spent on artificial turf. My whole life was on that pitch. Truth is, it’s been a while since I played on artificial turf, but I have no problem adapting myself again.”

New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ Achilles injury has brought renewed scrutiny to artificial turf. Many have blamed the injury on the artificial turf at MetLife Stadium; earlier this week, the NFL Player’s Association called for the elimination of artificial turf from all NFL stadiums, including Mercedes-Benz.