Inter Miami manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino has claimed that Lionel Messi may not make his Major League Soccer debut this weekend.

Although the superstar has played eight matches with his new team, the appearances have been in Leagues Cup and U.S. Open Cup competitions. Miami is scheduled to play away to New York Red Bulls on Saturday, August 26th at 7:30PM (ET).

Martino previously hinted that he may have to give Messi rest in the near future. As the club currently sits bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference standings, team officials could very well opt to sit the the superstar during select league matches. The head coach alluded to this notion during a recent press conference.

Messi has already played 714 total minutes with new club

“We will assess further after this evening’s training,” Martino told reporters on Friday. “It is inevitable that we will not have him at some point. This will happen at least three times this year, and next year more. We will have to find a solution.”

Messi has started seven of Miami’s eight matches since joining the team in July. Three of these cup games have even gone all the way to penalty kicks. Saturday’s matchup with Red Bulls will also be the club’s seventh fixture in just 23 days. Miami flew directly to New York following their dramatic victory against Cincinnati on Wednesday night.

Fans paying huge prices to see Messi play for Miami

Martino also claimed to be well aware of the responsibility to play Messi during away game here in the United States. Ticket prices have surged across the country as fans hope to catch a glimpse of the World Cup winner.

In fact, The New York Post suggested on Friday that tickets for Saturday’s matchup had an average price tag of nearly $500. This was about 10 times the average ticket prices prior to Messi’s MLS arrival.

“I understand the expectations the rest of the world has to watch him, and that is undeniable,” Martino continued. “But I cannot act based on that, because then I would risk doing things wrong.”

After the Red Bulls matchup, Miami then has six more MLS fixtures before playing the U.S. Open Cup final. Messi and company are set to host Houston Dynamo for the trophy on Wednesday, September 27th.

Photo credit: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire