Inter Miami’s Martino defends decision to rest Messi at Montreal

Inter Miami coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has defended his decision to rest Lionel Messi in Sunday’s 3-2 defeat against Montreal.

Messi, 36, had played every minute of Miami’s three MLS matches so far in 2024, as well as their Concacaf Champions League game at Nashville SC last Thursday.

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“We talked about it about a week ago and we agreed that this was the game where he had to rest, regardless of what happened in the game with Nashville,” Martino said of Messi.

Martino had already revealed during preseason that he would rest Messi and his other veteran stars throughout the year. Miami also have former Barcelona stars Jordi Alba, 34, Sergio Busquets, 35 and Luis Suárez, 37, in their squad.

“We also must make sure our team is healthy and can last an entire season,” he said.

Speaking after Sunday’s game, Inter Miami’s first defeat of the season, Martino said: “I think we more than deserved to win the game. Clearly it was a game we should have won.”

Martino also accused Montreal players of time wasting late in the game.

“Before the league started, we had to listen for an hour to a talk about what the spirit of the league was and the spirit of the league was not seen today,” he said.

“There was a team that did not want to play. In each situation of a throw-in, of a goal kick, of a foul, permanently wasted time with the collaboration of a referee, who took 30 seconds to write down the shirt number of the cautioned player.”

Inter Miami have conceded five goals in their last two games and Martino admitted to being concerned by their defensive capabilities.

“What worries me is that we are a team that does not defend hard in the moments when it has to defend, be it when the ball is in play or on dead-ball situations,” Martino said.

Inter Miami are back in action on Wednesday when they take on Nashville SC in the round of 16 second leg of the Concacaf Champions Cup. They drew the opening leg 2-2.