By Brian Maurer
Photo courtesy of Lionel Messi IG
Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi returned after the international break with many fans having high hopes they would see him play Atlanta United on Saturday. However, on the morning of the MLS matchday, multiple reports stated that Messi was not traveling to Atlanta and would not play.
Instead of traveling with the team to Atlanta, Messi spent the Match Day with his family. Tyler Pilgrim, Co-Host of the Scarves and Spikes Podcast, heard a rumor that Messi had ordered a pizza delivery, so he called the pizza place to find out what was going on. "They picked right up, and they introduced themselves as the pizza place...he just told me everything...because of who it was the manager made the delivery so we delivered it to them."
"There's a significant portion that are either A disappointed or B pissed off about it," said Pilgrim about the feelings of many of the Atlanta United fans who discovered that Messi was not going to travel for the game.
For most other players, an absence is not a big deal. Rotations are expected, especially for stars past the prime of their careers. Messi is a unique case, however, because of the additional costs imposed on fans who want to see their club play against Miami.
In this specific case, Atlanta United was charging fans $145 up until the news broke. After it was known that Messi would not attend those prices dropped to half the rate.
Fans were reselling tickets for $54 after the Messi news. A staggering price drop from the previously reported $800 average they were going for.
The Atlanta fans in attendance were treated to a high-scoring onslaught in a 5-2 win over Miami. The result will likely cleanse many of the costs that are becoming glaringly obvious with a superstar signing such as Messi.
Ever since Messi arrived in the States the entire league has turned their lens directly on South Beach (or more accurately Fort Lauderdale). This has led to clubs price hiking, and fans reselling at ten times the initial price hike.
The blame for these arising issues does not lie on Miami Head Coach Tata Martino or Lionel Messi. Martino is well within his rights to rest his players as he manages a busy final stretch of games and international breaks. Messi also is within his rights to look out for his body and enjoy the time off that he is given with his family.
This is the cost of an iconic star playing in a league desperately trying to punch above its weight, and clubs within that league honing in on the fast cash that the deal is offering.
What this could mean for Charlotte FC fans
Charlotte FC fans should be weary and monitor things closely as a similar scenario is set to take place in October. Messi will likely be with the Argentine National Team leading up to the Decision Day clash between The Crown and Miami. If Messi is indeed playing in the World Cup Qualifiers then he will only have a couple of days before the MLS regular season finale in Charlotte.
There are a couple of reasons for optimism for Charlotte fans hoping to see Messi travel to the Carolinas. First, if playoffs are hanging in the balance on Decision Day the competitor in Messi will likely take precedence and he could commit to playing on the quick turnaround. Second, even if Miami is not capable of qualifying for a playoff spot it will be the last match of the season. This means that there will be months for Messi to rest afterward, so he could be more encouraged to travel and finish up his first season in MLS playing in Charlotte.