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Lionel Messi, Inter Miami Wrap Up Pre-Season With 1-1 Draw Against Newell's Old Boys - Match Report

With the stadium packed with fans excited to see Messi play, the 36-year-old star did not have much affect on the game

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Photo: Rebecca Blackwell
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Lionel Messi and Inter Miami closed out their tumultuous Major League Soccer preseason with a 1-1 draw against Messi's boyhood club, Newell's Old Boys. (More Football News)

It was the first time that the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner faced the club that both he and Inter Miami coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino grew up with as natives of Rosario, Argentina. Messi played there as a child before leaving to play for FC Barcelona, where he rose to football stardom. Martino played and coached for the club and holds the record for most appearances in club history.

With the stadium packed with fans excited to see Messi play, the 36-year-old star did not have much affect on the game. He missed a free kick in the first half, but looked healthy, surging forward and slicing through opponents with ease.

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Messi had missed a Feb. 4 preseason win in Hong Kong because of nagging injuries. He stayed on the bench for the entire game with a groin injury as fans booed and demanded refunds.

Messi checked out of the game on Thursday with Inter Miami's Luis Suárez in the 60th minute. That's when a young fan sprinted onto the field with his arms stretched toward Messi before being intercepted by security. Shanyder Borgelin put Inter Miami ahead 1-0 with a header in the 64th minute, and Newell's Franco Díaz tied it in the 83rd minute.

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Messi's first MLS preseason was messy. Inter Miami set off on a global tour of exhibition games aimed at promotion and marketing, featuring Messi and the Uruguayan star Suárez. But the tour received mostly bad PR, as well as not-so-great results on the field.

Inter Miami was outscored 12-7 in its first five games before a win in Hong Kong. That victory was highly overshadowed by angry fans when neither Messi nor Suárez took the field.

"We understand the disappointment of the fans for the absence of Leo (Messi) and Luis Suarez," Martino said after that game.

"We understand a lot of fans are very disappointed and we ask for their forgiveness. We wish we could have sent Leo and Luis on for at least a while but the risk was too big." Inter Miami will now turn its attention to the 2024 regular season, hoping for better success after fizzling late last season. The club will host Real Salt Lake on Feb. 21.

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