Apple TV announced on Monday the release of a six-part documentary series called “Messi Meets America” about Lionel Messi’s arrival in South Florida and his first season with Inter Miami.
The first half of the series, which begins Oct. 11, will surely capture the euphoric frenzy of the Argentine star’s early weeks with the team. After joining the club in mid-July, he scored 11 goals and led Inter Miami to a 12-game unbeaten streak and the Leagues Cup trophy in front of stadiums packed with fans who splurged hundreds and thousands of dollars to see him.
But there have been unhappy plot twists in recent weeks.
Messi missed four of the past five games with an unspecified upper leg injury, and his status for the road game Wednesday against the Chicago Fire remains in doubt. Miami is 1-2-2 during that stretch, and the lone win was against last-place Toronto.
Neither Messi nor the club has provided details about his injury. A social media post Saturday by Caden DeLisa, an education and healthcare reporter for The Capitolist website, cited an unnamed source saying Messi “sustained a 2 cm hamstring tear, confirmed via MRI”.
Messi’s injury, and that of his former FC Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba, happened as Inter Miami is in the thick of a desperate push for a playoff spot. With four games remaining in the regular season Miami is four points and four places short of the ninth-place playoff line. Seven teams are vying for two postseason spots.
Miami could use his help. The team managed only one shot on goal against NYCFC on Saturday, and it came in the 95th minute. Messi watched the game from the bench in street clothes. The big question is how many more games will he miss.
The next two games for 13th-place Inter Miami are Wednesday against 11th-place Chicago and Saturday at home against first-place FC Cincinnati, which already clinched the Supporters Shield as the team with the league’s best record. Cincinnati will be looking to avenge a dramatic loss in penalty kicks to Inter Miami in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals.
Miami is then off during most of the upcoming FIFA international window, during which Argentina plays World Cup qualifying matches against Paraguay Oct. 12 in Buenos Aires and Oct. 17 against Peru in Lima.
If Messi was to play for Argentina in both of those games, he would most likely miss the Inter Miami vs. Charlotte FC home game Oct. 18. The season finale is Oct. 21 on the road against Charlotte.
Gaston Edul, a respected soccer reporter for Argentina-based TyC sports, on Sunday posted this update on X (formerly Twitter): “Leo Messi will not play against Chicago Fire. Next Saturday the 7th, [Inter Miami vs Cincinnati] is the last game before the Argentine national team games. They are pointing to that game for him to get in some minutes.”
But Inter Miami coach Tata Martino insisted Saturday night that no decision will be made about Messi’s availability for the Chicago game until after training Tuesday. He said the plan was for Messi to train Monday and Tuesday, and then after conferring with the medical staff, they would decide whether he will travel.
“We didn’t take any risks with him in the [U.S. Open Cup] final, so there’s even less of a need to do so now,” Martino said. “He might be ready to play against Chicago, he might be on the bench, or if we think there’s still a risk and he has to be left out, he will be left out. It will be the same against Cincinnati.”
In the meantime, ticket prices for Wednesday’s sold out game at 61,500-seat Soldier Field have dropped on the secondary market as the uncertainty of Messi’s status continues. Upper-level seats were listed as low as $40 on Monday while most of the lower-level seats were in the $150 to $250 range, a significant dip from where they were a few weeks ago.
Fire coach Frank Klopas said his team is preparing for both scenarios, with and without Messi.
“If he’s not on the field, they’re still a very good team,” Klopas said Monday. “They made some really excellent additions in the secondary window. That’s shown with every match, the way they play and compete…Obviously, with Messi on the pitch, it’s a different team because you have one player that at any moment you cannot take your eyes off him and with one play he can change the outcome of the game.”
Klopas compared Inter Miami with Messi to the Chicago Bulls era with Michael Jordan.
“I grew up in Chicago from a very young age; when Michael Jordan didn’t play, they still had a very good team, but when he played, they could win eight in a row,” Klopas said. “Miami is still a very, very good team with some excellent players, but then you have the icing on the cake with Messi, the one player that will always give you that edge.”
Miami needs wins, and Messi, now more than ever. How the docuseries unfolds remains to be seen.