Lionel Messi returned to action for Inter Miami as he played the final 30 minutes of a pre-season friendly against Vissel Kobe in Tokyo.
Messi, who has been suffering with a hamstring injury, was an unused substitute as Inter Miami beat a Hong Kong XI 4-1 on Sunday, with local fans voicing their frustrations having turned up in numbers in expectation of seeing the eight-time Ballon D’Or winner in action.
David Beckham’s Major League Soccer side continued their pre-season build up in Japan and Argentina superstar Messi was able to resume training ahead of their latest friendly.
There was another injury worry for Miami, though, as midfielder Sergio Busquets was forced off with an ankle issue midway through the first half after being caught by a late tackle from Yuya Osako.
Just before half-time, Vissel forward Osako fired over from 10 yards in front of goal after Miami had lost possession when trying to playing out from the back.
The J1 League side went close again early in the second half when Brazil forward Jean Patric headed wide.
Messi came on for the final 30 minutes, replacing David Ruiz, and his introduction was met with loud cheers from fans all around the National Stadium.
Ryuho Kikuchi headed wide from a free-kick into the Miami penalty area, with Messi then forcing a late save from the Vissel goalkeeper and seeing his follow-up effort cleared off the line.
After the match finished goalless, the result was decided on a penalty shoot-out.
— ヴィッセル神戸 (@visselkobe) February 7, 2024
Vissel won 4-3 after Miami failed to convert any of their last three spot-kicks, with Messi not taking one.
Miami will now head back to the United States for a final warm-up match against Messi’s boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys in Fort Lauderdale.
The first match of the new MLS season is against Real Salt Lake on February 21.