After making the long journey to Atlanta to witness their idol play, thousands of Lionel Messi followers were left heartbroken.

This past Saturday was expected to be one of Atlanta United’s biggest games ever. Having Inter Miami’s hero Lionel Messi in town resulted in over 65,000 ticket sales, with the lowest-priced seat going for $125.

The sold-out Major League Soccer match at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium was reportedly visibly met by hundreds of pink Messi shirts. Yet, the superstar player they cherished the most was completely absent from view.

Why was Lionel Messi absent?

On Saturday, ticket holders were greeted with the disappointing news that Lionel Messi will not be participating in the match. Unfortunately for the sellout audience, the Argentine opted to stay in Miami to recuperate.

While representing Argentina internationally, the veteran had an injury that forced him to miss the team’s second qualifying game for the 2026 World Cup. However, on Friday he continued his regular practice schedule, and coach Tata Martino remained vague about whether or not he would be playing in the next game.

Messi’s participation in the game had been expected up until Saturday morning.

However, photos of him attending his son’s Inter Miami academy soccer game later emerged online, prompting speculation that he didn’t travel with the rest of the squad.

How did fans react to news?

The reporters talked to disappointed Messi supporters who had come from all over the US to witness him play.

The Daily Mail reported that one family traveled all night from South Florida to see the game. The majority of the spectators also spent hundreds of dollars on tickets.

To attend the game, another fan who spoke to Yahoo Sports came in from Texas with his kid and paid $300 for tickets on the secondary market. “I am highly disappointed, given the level of anticipation and increased seating capacity that was made available, which I thought was primarily based on Messi’s MLS involvement and attendance”, he said.

Photo credit: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire