Lionel Messi, Inter Miami coach criticize MLS officiating after injury scare

Lionel Messi, Inter Miami coach criticize MLS officiating after injury scare

Updated May. 12, 2024 7:02 p.m. ET

Inter Miami head coach Gerardo Martino called on Major League Soccer to "revise" officiating amid a new player injury rule after star player Lionel Messi seemingly criticized it during a live broadcast following an injury scare to the 36-year-old on Sunday.

Messi, the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner as the world's best player, briefly left Inter Miami’s match at Montreal late in the first half after evidently having some sort of issue with his left knee.

Messi was hurt in the 40th minute on a play near midfield. He was fouled by Montreal defender George Campbell and went down immediately, holding his knee and writhing in pain. Inter Miami’s medical staff went onto the field to treat Messi, who got up after about two minutes and walked to the Miami sideline. 

Messi was not subbed out, but under a new MLS rule, he had to spend two minutes on the sideline while Miami played with 10 men. During that period, Messi turned to the sideline camera and uttered his frustrations in Spanish, as broadcast microphones caught the Argentine superstar saying "With these types of rules … it's going bad."


Inter Miami later came back to win the match 3-2 in what marked Messi's first time playing in Canada during his nearly two-decade top-flight professional career.

The 2024 MLS rulebook states that "If the referee stops play due to a potential player injury in which the player remains on the ground for more than 15 seconds and the medical staff enters the field of play, the player may be required to leave the field of play for two minutes."

There are some circumstances that negate the required two-minute absence, one of which is if the injury occurred on a yellow or red card foul. Campbell was not carded for his foul of Messi. Martino took umbrage with both that call and the overarching rule when speaking to reporters after the match, per

"In Leo's situation, he was clearly fouled," Martino said. "The player deserved a yellow card, which would mean Messi would've never left the field for two minutes. As I understand it, the team that suffered the foul was punished. With these new rule changes, there are situations that must be revised. The infraction was clear and was a yellow card, and ultimately it was us that lost Leo for two minutes."

Messi's absence nearly burned Miami at a critical time when the team was down 2-0, but Matías Rojas scored a goal off a free kick caused by Campbell's foul, a shot that Messi surely would have taken had he been in the match at that point. Messi rejoined play a couple of minutes later and was on the field when Luis Suarez's goal late in first-half stoppage time pulled Inter Miami into a 2-2 tie at intermission. Rojas later set up Benjamin Cremaschi's winning goal in the 59th minute.

Inter Miami (8-2-3) extended its unbeaten streak to seven matches (5-0-2) despite Messi being held without a goal or an assist for the first time in his nine MLS appearances this season. The MLS Eastern Conference leader is 7-0-2 in those nine games; one of its losses came against Montreal in March, a game where Messi didn't play.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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