Lionel Messi will no doubt have been the first name on Inter Miami’s teamsheet, but it appears the Argentine may not have been available for a handful of the MLS side’s games due to his reluctance to play on artificial surfaces.
After having decided his time with PSG was up at the end of the last season, Messi snubbed a move back to his former club Barcelona and rebuffed the best efforts from Saudi Arabian clubs to lure him over – opting for a transfer to the USA instead.
His move had already prompted other big-name stars across Europe to follow suit.
Indeed, his former Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba had already joined him at Inter Miami, with Luis Suarez and Iniesta both being linked with the club as well.
Yet, while many MLS fans will be desperate to see the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner in action, a large percentage may find themselves disappointed as a result of a familiar problem.
Why Messi may miss some Inter Miami games
According tothe Mirror,Messi is reportedly unwilling to play on artificial surfaces – something that six MLS sides currently do.
New England Revolution, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, Charlotte FC, Atlanta United, and the Vancouver Whitecaps have all been playing on surfaces other than grass at present.
Inter Miami is still due to face Charlotte and Atlanta away this season, and considering both boast huge stadiums, the absence of Messi in these fixtures will be a huge commercial blow.
Messi has played almost every game of his club career on grass so far, with La Liga and Ligue 1 having banned the use of artificial surfaces.
And though they are permitted in the Champions League for the most part, UEFA has banned them for the final itself.
Messi is not the only player who shares the concern over artificial turf either.
David Beckham once told Canadian outlet theGlobe and Mail: “As a professional athlete, you can’t play a game like soccer on that sort of field. What it does to your body as a soccer player, you’re in bits for three days after that. Every game, every team should have grass, without a doubt. You can’t ask any athlete to perform at a high level on the FieldTurf.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who used to play for LA Galaxy in the MLS, echoed Beckham’s fears: “By playing on turf, I risk to get damaged. I don’t say I will get injured,” he stressed.
“I don’t know; I could get injured also in normal games but the consequence is everywhere, the risk is everywhere. The risk is higher on the turf and I tried to play on the turf in Portland, and I felt very bad.”
What’s the solution?
MLS commissioner Don Garber has addressed the concerns over artificial turf and has stated the grass could be installed on top of such surfaces in the coming months.
Speaking to the Athletic, he said: “That’s going to be the decision of every club when they do travel to those stadiums that don’t have natural grass.
“My expectations are that that’s what they will do, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to figure all of that out. MLS promotes a lot of international games and we have been able to bring natural grass into those stadiums, but we’ve never done that for a regular season game.”
He added: “And then you see some of the best players who’ve ever played the game, the (Thierry) Henrys of the world and Kakas of the world, who played on turf. So I think that’s a process that will have to play out over time.”
Why do clubs use artificial surfaces?
Despite grass pitches being preferred by the majority of people, there are a variety of reasons why some clubs choose to use artificial turf.
In many instances, the cost of maintaining an artificial pitch is far lower and can save teams a lot of money.
It also means the pitches can be used in all weather conditions – reducing the risk of postponed games.