Manager Gerardo Martino said Tuesday that whether his star player was available or not would come down to a game-time decision. When the lineup was revealed ahead of the final at DRV PNK Stadium, Messi was not listed on the team sheet.
Messi’s former Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba is also unavailable as he deals with an injury of his own.
Thousands of fans were already on hand in the Fort Lauderdale area late Wednesday afternoon — many of them wearing Messi jerseys either in the blue and white of Argentina or the pink of Inter Miami — long before the gates opened for the Cup final, if for no other reason than to watch the team buses arrive.
However, when the buses arrived there was no Messi, a reality that might have led to an expensive disappointment for some fans. Ticket prices on the secondary markets, with links to sales posted on the team’s social media channels as recently as Tuesday, ranged from $145 to nearly $4,000 about an hour before the match.
Messi has been in and out of Miami’s lineup since returning from international duty for Argentina with a leg injury related to an old scar tissue problem. He did not play in a loss to Atlanta United on Sept. 16 and tried to play Sept. 20 against Toronto FC but was withdrawn after about 30 minutes in a game Miami went on to win 4-0.
Alba was substituted with muscle fatigue in the Toronto game shortly before Messi, and after the match Martino said neither would play in Saturday’s game away to Orlando City. Miami managed a draw in that match to keep their MLS Cup playoff hopes alive.
Messi’s impact on Miami since arriving in July in a blockbuster deal has been remarkable. He’s scored 11 goals and contributed to a total of 16, with the team having never lost a game in which he played.
Miami are five points behind New York City FC, which they face Saturday in MLS, in the standings for the final playoff spot with five games to play and two games in hand.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.