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Lionel Messi’s status is still a mystery as Inter Miami prepares for an MLS match at Chicago

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Lionel Messi was on the practice field with Inter Miami on Tuesday, though it remains unclear when or if the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner will play with the team again this season.

Inter Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino declined to provide any timetable regarding Messi when he spoke with reporters before the practice session.

The team — which is still trying to make Major League Soccer’s playoffs — plays at Chicago on Wednesday. Messi has been listed as day to day for much of the past month and barely has played in that span.

The 36-year-old Messi has missed four of Inter Miami’s last five matches, plus another for Argentina in that span because of what was first called fatigue — by both his club and country — and has evolved from there. The only game he didn’t miss during that stretch was a 37-minute appearance against Toronto on Sept. 20, and he had to leave that match before halftime because of a hamstring issue.

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Messi made an appearance Monday night at the team’s stadium to promote the launch of a children’s menu bearing his name at some Hard Rock properties around the world. He was not made available for comment to most media outlets that were in attendance at the event, and no update on his injury was provided.

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Inter Miami enters the week 13th in the Eastern Conference, four spots and four points out of the last playoff spot from that side of MLS. A loss on Wednesday would not eliminate Inter Miami from the playoff mix, but it would put a significant dent in the team’s postseason hopes.

After that match at Chicago, Inter Miami has three MLS games remaining — Saturday at home against Cincinnati, a rescheduled match at home against Charlotte on Oct. 18 and the finale at Charlotte on Oct. 21.

Messi has 11 goals in 12 matches with Inter Miami this season. The team is 8-0-4 when he plays; seven of those matches were on the team’s run to winning its first-ever trophy by claiming the Leagues Cup championship and another was in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal.

He has one goal in four MLS matches and has been an instant phenomenon, as would be expected — with his jersey already the best-selling in the league in 2023, even though it wasn’t available for sale until mid-July.

Inter Miami is 1-2-2 in its five matches without Messi since he joined the club.