Lionel Messi Tata Martino Inter Miami splitGetty Images

Is Lionel Messi returning to Barcelona? Inter Miami boss Tata Martino addresses loan rumours following MLS side's elimination from playoff contention

  • Tata Martino downplays Messi loan rumors
  • Messi's possible return to Barcelona questioned
  • Messi's form and international commitments

WHAT HAPPENED? After Inter Miami's playoff hopes dwindled with a 1-0 loss to Cincinnati, Martino addressed rumours of Messi's potential loan move to Barcelona in January. The speculation arose as MLS action won't resume until February, leaving Messi with a lengthy offseason.

Messi, who joined Miami in July on a two-and-a-half-year deal, has been in impressive form, scoring 12 goals in 13 league and cup matches. Miami enjoyed an undefeated record of 8-0-4 with Messi before the recent loss to Cincinnati.

Cincinnati has secured the top spot in the Eastern Conference and a first-round bye. For them, the victory also avenged a previous home loss to Miami in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal.

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Messi is set to join the Argentina national team for 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay and Peru in October. As Miami's season concludes, Argentina faces the challenge of maintaining Messi's fitness for upcoming qualifiers against Uruguay and Brazil. Miami's remaining league matches include a home and away fixture against Charlotte on October 18 and 21.

WHAT THEY SAID: "Is he going for fun? Maybe he's going to visit Barcelona. Other than that, I don't know anything else about it," said Martino.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: The possibility of Messi returning to Barcelona, even on loan, has generated significant interest among fans. While it seems unlikely that the move will go through, Barcelona will look to give the Argentine legend one last run at the club.

IN TWO PHOTOS:

Messi Inter Miami sad 2023Getty ImagesXavi Barcelona 2023-24Getty Images

WHAT NEXT? As Inter Miami's season ends and Messi joins international duty, the focus will be on how Argentina manages his fitness for crucial World Cup qualifiers. The loan rumors surrounding Messi's return to Barcelona may persist until the MLS resumes in February, offering the potential for more developments in the future.

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