Lionel Messi and the Lost Time Dilemma

New regulation in American soccer league sparks controversy after incident involving the Argentine star
Inter Miami CF v CF Montreal
Inter Miami CF v CF Montreal / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The quest to make the game more dynamic and fair is ongoing. However, the measures taken to achieve this goal are not always universally welcomed. A recent example of this clash between regulation and sportsmanship occurred during the match between Inter Miami and Montreal when renowned player Lionel Messi was affected by a new rule aimed at preventing time wasting during player medical treatment.

Last Saturday, while Inter Miami was facing Montreal, Messi was at the center of a moment that reverberated beyond the pitch. After a harsh tackle, the Argentine needed medical attention off the field. The MLS rule, implemented since late 2023, stipulates that a player attended to off the field must remain off for two minutes before returning to the game. For a player with the physical integrity and fair play history like Messi, this imposition seemed not only unnecessary but also frustrating.

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The essence of soccer lies in its fluidity, the unpredictability of plays, and the players' ability to make a difference in crucial moments. However, the rigid enforcement of this new rule seems to contradict these values, interfering with the natural flow of the game and, in Messi's case, depriving him of exerting his influence on the game, such as taking an important free kick for his team.

The discontent of the Argentine star with the situation was evident when, after the two-minute period, he returned to the field visibly annoyed and addressed the camera to express his opinion: "With this kind of rule, we are doing poorly." It is understandable that a player of Messi's stature, accustomed to facing challenges at a global level, feels frustrated when limited by a rule that, despite aiming to curb abuses, ends up harming even those who do not resort to such tactics.

Furthermore, the situation became even more ironic when his teammate Matías Rojas coincidentally scored a crucial goal during the period Messi was off the field, demonstrating that the enforcement of the rule did not prevent the occurrence of decisive moments in the course of the match.

Faced with this episode, it is inevitable to question whether the strictness of regulations is not undermining the very essence of the sport. The pursuit of a fairer and more dynamic game is commendable, but it must be balanced with respect for the fundamental values of soccer, such as fair play and sportsmanship.

The MLS, like any league, needs to constantly review its rules to ensure they are aligned with the principles of the sport and meet the needs of players and teams.