What's next for Lionel Messi? Inter Miami availability, offseason plans

Lionel Messi - focused dribbling - Inter Miami

Lionel Messi appears set to grace the Decision Day stage.

Inter Miami CF’s superstar No. 10, speaking Tuesday night after scoring twice in Argentina’s 2-0 victory at Peru, all but confirmed he’ll be available for Saturday’s regular-season finale trip to Charlotte FC (6 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

Not only that, but Messi also provided a window into his next few months. November’s World Cup qualifiers with La Albiceleste, vacation and an extended preseason for Inter Miami’s 2024 season all await.

“I’ll train, I’ll play the game we have left and I'll try to be at my best for November, if I can be here again, and then enjoy vacation in Argentina,” said Messi, whose brace in a 90-minute outing made him the all-time leading scorer (31 goals) in Conmebol World Cup qualifying.

“It’ll be the first time in a while that I spend a lot of days here in December during the holidays in peace with my people. And in January I’ll be back, I’ll do a preseason starting from zero and prepare myself the best I can, as always.”

Messi’s vintage performance at Estadio Nacional del Perú assuaged fears about the injury that recently caused him to miss four games for Inter Miami, including a US Open Cup Final defeat to Houston Dynamo FC on Sept. 27. He returned for a substitute appearance in a 1-0 loss to FC Cincinnati on Oct. 7, but that result ended the Herons’ ability to make the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Reflecting on his time out injured, Messi highlighted how his sensational summertime arrival included a Leagues Cup title on Aug. 20. That penalty-kick victory over Nashville SC was Miami’s first-ever trophy and booked their place in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup.

“Truthfully it’s a shame; we were close [to making the playoffs],” said Messi. “I missed the last few games and we had a lot of injuries. The month of July was hard for us because we played every three days, we traveled. But we won an important tournament for the club ahead of next year.”

Messi’s remarks may end speculation over a wintertime loan to Spanish powerhouse side FC Barcelona, the club where he rose to legendary status alongside Inter Miami teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.

Rather, Messi’s priorities appear straightforward after a busy year and a half that included the 2022-23 Ligue 1 season with his previous club Paris Saint-Germain, a wintertime World Cup triumph with Argentina and then a new MLS adventure.

All the while, Messi could win a world-record eighth Ballon d'Or when the prestigious award is announced Oct. 30. He's considered a frontrunner alongside Manchester City striker Erling Haaland.