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'I couldn't bring myself to tell my son' - Fans who paid huge money to see Lionel Messi left 'devastated' as superstar misses Inter Miami's MLS defeat to Atlanta United

  • Messi sidelined with a knock
  • Missed Miami's loss to Atlanta
  • Many fans gutted by his absence

WHAT HAPPENED? The 36-year-old picked up a knock while on World Cup qualifying duty with Argentina earlier this month and as a result, he missed Inter Miami's 5-2 loss to Atlanta this weekend. In anticipation of the World Cup winner playing in the MLS fixture, ticket prices at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium reportedly soared as more than 70,000 piled into the ground. And with the cheapest ticket on sale at $150 (£121.1), many fans were left frustrated that the former Barcelona talisman did not feature.

WHAT THEY SAID: The Athletic spoke to a number of Inter Miami fans about Messi not playing in the contest, with some supporters travelling long distances to see the great man.

“I was devastated. Really emotional,” said Bianca Mathis from Buford, Georgia. “I may be a Georgia peach but I love Messi. I found out this morning. I was really sad.”

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“We drove from Memphis. It’s a five hour drive,” said Jorge Musicante. “I didn’t turn around because I wanted to spend a nice time in Atlanta. Messi’s not here but (Atlanta United and Argentina midfielder Thiago) Almada is.”

Melkin Hernandez travelled more than 100 miles from Columbus, Georgia, with his six-year-old son to see Messi. He added: “I haven’t told him that Messi isn’t here. I can’t bring myself to tell him. I haven’t told him that he won’t see Messi. He’ll realize in the game.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Messi is in the twilight stages of his career. He has been faultless since signing for Miami, after scoring 11 goals in 11 games and helping them to win their first ever trophy in the Leagues Cup in August. But managing his body is vital and manager Gerardo Martino said as much after the defeat. He told reporters: “There is some risk of having worse consequences if they (Messi and team-mate Jordi Alba) came to play this match.”

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Lionel Messi Inter Miami 2023Getty ImagesAtlanta United Inter MiamiGettyLeonardo Campana Inter MiamiGetty

WHAT NEXT? Miami, who are 14th in the division, take on basement side Toronto on Thursday, followed by Orlando City on Monday, September 25. The games come thick and fast as they take on Houston Dynamo in the US Open Cup final on Thursday, September 28, too. They will hope Messi is fit for that one at the very least.