Martino confident Miami can handle ‘Messi tour’ demands

Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami face a globe-trotting pre-season schedule, travelling almost 25,000 miles to play seven friendlies in five countries but coach Gerardo Martino is confident they can handle the workload.

Miami will return to training this weekend and have just a week at their base in Fort Lauderdale before heading off on a tour which takes them to El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Japan.

The arrival of Messi — along with former Barcelona team-mates Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and most recently Luis Suarez — has made such friendly games a significant revenue generator for the club.

But the schedule has raised concerns that Miami run the risk of overdoing games and travel before the season starts on February 21.

“We understand the business and sports sides, and we try to satisfy both sides without exceeding one or the other,” Martino told reporters on Thursday.

“We have to balance how much each player participates,” he added.

The pressure is clearly always on Martino to feature Messi as much as possible but the club’s experience last season stands as a warning.

Miami shone brightly winning the mid-season Leagues Cup shortly after Messi’s arrival only to burn out quickly amid injuries to the Argentine and Spaniard Alba.

The team were unable to make a late push into the playoffs with Messi watching much of the back end of the season from the stands.

Busquets also feels the club will have to maintain an equilibrium between commercial and football activities.

“It’s looking at the balance of the sporting side and the growth of this club and the revenues that benefit the business side,” he said.

“We will also compete against great teams that will prepare us to be at a high level. When it comes to time changes and long trips, we have to be prepared and physically fit, and that will help us during the season,” he said.

Seven days after returning to training Miami have their first test on January 19 against the El Salvador national team in San Salvador.

After a game against FC Dallas in Texas, the team flies to Saudi Arabia to play Al Hilal on January 29 before taking on Cristiano Ronaldo’s side Al Nassr.

Three days later, Miami then face an All-Star team in Hong Kong on February 4 before jetting to Tokyo for a friendly with J-League club Vissel Kobe.

The team’s pre-season finishes on February 15 with their only home game against Messi’s boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys. BSS

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