Messi starts Miami's Japan friendly on bench

Lionel Messi was named among the Inter Miami substitutes for the latest game in the team’s preseason tour, this one against Vissel Kobe in Tokyo.

Argentina’s World Cup-winning captain came off the bench in the 60th minute with the scoreline still at 0-0 and was unable to break the deadlock as the game finished in a stalemate.

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Messi missed his team’s win over a Hong Kong League XI last week with an adductor injury, prompting the country’s government to express its disappointment.

Messi told reporters on Tuesday that he felt “very good compared to a few days ago,” though he added he wasn’t sure if he would be fit enough to play and would assess based on how training went.

Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Luis Suárez were all included in Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s starting team for Thursday’s game. Busquets was forced off midway through the first half after suffering a knock to his ankle.

The Barcelona links deepen for Wednesday’s game, as Blaugrana legend Andrés Iniesta spent five years with the Vissel Kobe before moving to the United Arab Emirates to join Emirates in August 2023.

Inter Miami have won just one of their preseason fixtures so far against the Hong Kong team in a run that has seen them beaten by Al Hilal and Al Nassr of the Saudi Pro League.

Messi was restricted to a late substitute appearance in the 6-0 defeat to Al Nassr, which Cristiano Ronaldo missed entirely through injury.

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