Messi uncertain to play against Vissel Kobe in Tokyo


Argentine superstar Lionel Messi said he was unsure whether he would be fit to play for Inter Miami in Wednesday’s friendly against J-League champions Vissel Kobe at Tokyo’s National Stadium.

The 36-year-old attacker has been dealing with an adductor issue that prevented him taking part in another exhibition match Sunday in Hong Kong, prompting an angry response at the stadium and online from fans who bought tickets just to see him play.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to play yet,” Messi said at a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday. “But I feel much better and I really want to be able to do it.”

Inter Miami, partly owned by former England star David Beckham, scheduled the friendlies against Vissel and a select team of Hong Kong players to warm up for the North American Major League Soccer season kicking off later this month.

Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi speaks at a press conference in Tokyo on Feb. 6, 2024, ahead of an international club football friendly against the J-League’s Vissel Kobe. (Kyodo)

Messi said he had kept tabs on Kobe after former Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta signed for the club in 2018.

“I was curious about how he was doing and was following their results,” Messi said.

Former Spain midfielder Sergio Busquets and Uruguay attacker Luis Suarez have also traveled to Japan with the Inter Miami squad.

Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi (C) trains with teammates in Chiba, near Tokyo, on Feb. 6, 2024, a day before the Major League Soccer club’s preseason match against J-League champions Vissel Kobe. (Kyodo)

Kobe manager Takayuki Yoshida said his team was “looking forward” to facing the visiting U.S. side.

“This is a good opportunity to take on a challenge,” Yoshida said in an online interview.


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