Messi’s Departure May Be Imminent, but Not Today

Messi’s Departure May Be Imminent, but Not Today

Amidst the speculations that Lionel Messi’s move to the US was to mark the twilight of his career and relish his retirement, the reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. Far from a leisurely stride, Messi’s days have been filled with an unrelenting dedication to the game.

The notion of Messi’s departure might loom, but the timing is far from apt. Even before he could savor the triumph of securing the Leagues Cup championship, an illustrious milestone that marked both the first title for Inter Miami and his 44th in an illustrious career, Messi finds himself gearing up for more action. As the sun rises on the Vietnamese horizon (August 24), Messi and his teammates will once again take to the field at FC Cincinnati’s stadium for the second leg of the US Open Cup semifinal. In a span of just 22 days, Messi is set to partake in his sixth match, and within 32 days, he will have engaged in eight games on US soil.

For a player of 36 years, this pace might seem quite relentless. Tata Martino, the coach of Inter Miami, acknowledges this fact all too well. Yet, in the realm of knockout matches, neither he nor any other coach can afford to sideline Messi. “At some point, we were informed he would require rest due to the immense physical demand,” Martino remarked. “However, this Wednesday won’t mark that ‘point’ we’ve discussed. Unless Messi explicitly seeks rest, he will persist on the pitch.”

The intriguing question lingers: could Messi possibly be craving a respite? Odds are slim, if not nonexistent. In its truest essence, Messi is now playing football for the sheer joy it brings, and the more he engages, the more vitality he seems to harness. A pause, or what might appear as “being off,” ironically could leave him more fatigued. Furthermore, employing his signature “walking beard” style—more an art of surveying the unfolding events on the field and orchestrating spaces—Messi remarkably expends less effort compared to his counterparts who rely heavily on sheer physical prowess.

Nghia Pham