Search Lionel Messi will play in a friendly in Tokyo on Wednesday with Inter Miami and Japanese club Vissel Kobe.
And don't look for another one PR disaster like on Sunday When ArgentinaThe World Cup-winning captain sat on the bench throughout the game against a selection of Hong Kong league players, angering thousands of fans who demanded refunds.
teammate Luis Suárez – another big name at the club – also remained on the bench.
Messi, who has rarely spoken publicly to the media since joining Inter Miami in July, appeared at a news conference at a five-star hotel in Tokyo on Tuesday. He sat alone on a stool on the stage, wearing a pink warm-up jacket and showing a bit of humility.
He was certainly under pressure from local Japanese sponsors, including Vissel Kobe, where his former Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta became a Japanese crowd favorite before his departure last year.
“The truth is that I feel very good compared to a few days ago,” Messi said in Spanish. “And depending on how it is [training] goes. And if I'm honest, I still don't know if I'll make it or not. But I feel much better and really want to be able to do it.
Messi tried to explain the situation to fans in Hong Kong, saying it was impossible for him to play with a groin injury. Some felt he could have just walked around for a few minutes, satisfying fans in a game that is largely meaningless aside from its promotional value.
“The truth is that it was bad luck that I couldn't do it [play] on the day of the Hong Kong game,” Messi said, adding that “the discomfort continued and it was very difficult for me to play.”
“Unfortunately in football it can happen in any game that we get injured,” he added. “It's a shame because I always want to be there, I want to be there, and even more so when it comes to these games when we travel so far and people are so excited to watch our games.”
Inter Miami's world tour was disappointing as the club tries to build a brand with experienced players such as Messi and Suarez. In five games from El Salvador to Dallas, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong, Inter Miami has won just once, losing 12-7.
The Asian tour ends Wednesday at Tokyo's National Stadium, the $1.4 billion venue built for the Tokyo Olympics, which were held in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mark Conrad, who teaches law, ethics and sports business at Fordham University's Gabelli School of Business, reminded fans that a ticket is for a game and does not guarantee a player's attendance.
“While it may be true that many fans have bought tickets in the hope of seeing Messi, the ticket is for watching the game, not for a specific player – unless there is a condition saying otherwise ” Conrad told The Associated Press.
“While it is probably true that the prize and interest is due in large part to Messi’s participation, his failure to play generally does not constitute a breach of contract.”
Messi said he hoped to visit Hong Kong again – and play this time.
“I hope we can come back and play another game and I can be there,” he said. “Just like I do whenever I can. But the truth is that it’s a shame I couldn’t take part.”