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Why has former USMNT defender Alexi Lalas criticised Inter Miami and MLS over Lionel Messi?

The Herons haven’t confirmed or denied whether the Argentina captain would play in games against Atlanta United and Toronto FC due to fitness issues.

Estados UnidosUpdate:
Inter Miami return to action at DRV PNK Stadium
Gary A. VasquezUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Despite speculation that he could be fit, Lionel Messi ultimately didn’t play for Inter Miami in their MLS game away to Atlanta United last weekend, much to the disappointment of fans and media pundits alike. Supporters who had shelled out vast sums of money to see the Argentina captain do his thing in the flesh at Mercedes Benz Stadium felt especially hard done by, not receiving the “experience” they thought they’d paid for.

Late decisions made on Messi for Atlanta United and Toronto FC games

Of course, Messi, contrary to popular belief, is human, which means there is always a chance he will pick up injuries here and there, like any other sportsman. After he suffered muscle fatigue while on international duty, Herons manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino and his coaching staff decided fielding their star player against Atlanta, who ran out convincing 5-2 winners, wasn’t worth the risk. The decision not to play him, however, was made late in the day.

There has been similar uncertainty as to whether Messi will feature in Wednesday’s game against Toronto FC at DRV PNK Stadium, with the mixed messages coming out of Miami drawing criticism from former USMNT star Alexi Lalas about how the former Barcelona star is being managed.

MLS and Inter Miami’s lack of transparency over Messi

In his State of the Union podcast, Lalas accused both Inter Miami and Major League Soccer for a lack of transparency as to whether Messi would be playing in certain games or not, especially considering both have used him “to promote absolutely everything” since his arrival.

“If Messi’s not going to play, they need to make it very, very clear”

“They have used Messi, from the moment it was announced, to sell and to hype and to promote absolutely everything on and off the field. I think that, whether it is Inter Miami or MLS, if they have information and if he is not going to play, they need to make it very, very clear,” said Lalas.

The 53-year-old believes MLS owes it to fans to be upfront with regard to the spectacle they’re paying to see.

Fans “purposely not informed” of Messi absence

“Especially before using Messi for all of these teams and leagues and, let’s be honest, soccer promotion that’s going on. I think it’s important and I think it’s vital for fans and media and teams to know. It’s the club’s responsibility to do everything possible to inform, but also from a purely competitive standpoint. Be open and be honest with everybody and I don’t think that’s too much to ask for this team”. Lalas explained.

“In this situation (the Atlanta United game), the buyer (of match tickets) was purposely not informed of the situation at a time when he or she could have been. I don’t think that’s ultimately right”.