Why Messi needs time off; USMNT’s Pulisic, Weah set for clash

Welcome to Onside/Offside! In this weekly segment, join Luis Miguel Echegaray as he delves into the latest happenings in the soccer world. From standout performances to overlooked games, he provides insights and previews of what’s to come.

This week, LME sheds light on Lionel Messi’s future plans and why the footballing community should take notice. He also discusses Wayne Rooney’s debut as Birmingham City manager and the exciting clash between AC Milan and Juventus in Serie A.

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Messi’s Much-Deserved Break: A Message for the Footballing World
After a stellar performance with the Argentina national team in the World Cup qualifiers, Messi returns to the U.S. to conclude his first season with Inter Miami. Though they didn’t make the playoffs, Messi’s impact was felt as he helped the young club claim their first-ever trophy, the Leagues Cup.

So, what’s next for Messi now that there’s no postseason for him? As we mentioned earlier on ESPN, Messi never had plans for a loan deal back to Europe or Barcelona. Instead, he will continue training with Inter Miami and prepare for the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers in November. Afterward, he will finally take a well-deserved break in December, heading back to Argentina before returning to work in January. This break will be the longest in Messi’s illustrious career.

It’s not just a celebration for Messi; it’s a lesson for the entire footballing community. Players need more time off due to the overwhelming schedule encompassing league matches, international tournaments, qualifiers, friendlies, domestic competitions, and the summer calendar. Just look at the Premier League, which already has 131 injuries across 20 teams, according to premierinjuries.com. Neymar Jr. recently suffered a serious ACL tear and meniscus injury, keeping him out for at least eight months.

By taking an extended break, Messi sets an example, showing that sometimes, less is more.

AC Milan vs. Juventus: Reviving an Italian Rivalry with an American Twist
AC Milan and Juventus have provided some unforgettable moments in Italian football history. From the 6-1 thrashing of Milan in the 1996-97 season to Ronaldinho’s brace, securing a 3-0 victory in 2010, these teams have delivered iconic matches.

In recent years, however, the rivalry lost its magic. But as we look forward to this Sunday’s encounter, we may witness a clash reminiscent of the past battles. Milan currently leads the Serie A table with 21 points, closely followed by Juventus, trailing by four points in third place. This match holds significance, even at this early stage of the season.

But what adds an extra layer of intrigue is the American influence in this game. Christian Pulisic has found his stride at Milan, scoring four goals and providing an assist in eight matches. He carried this confidence into the international break, netting a sensational goal against Germany and another in a 4-0 victory over Ghana. Yunus Musah has also flourished at Milan, citing his move as instrumental in his growth as a player.

On the other side, Tim Weah carries the weight of his father George Weah’s legacy, a former AC Milan legend. Weah expressed his excitement for this match, stating, “It will be a very special match, I can’t wait. Obviously, my father has an important past in the Rossoneri, so this match has a special meaning for my family.”

Let’s not forget Weston McKennie, who has risen from obscurity at Juventus to become a key figure in Max Allegri’s team. His newfound prominence is partly due to Paul Pogba’s doping controversy and Nico Fagioli’s suspension. Rumor has it that McKennie may even receive a contract extension.

Although Juventus will be missing Federico Chiesa and Danilo, and Dusan Vlahovic’s inclusion depends on his recovery from a back injury, Milan appears to have the edge at home. Regardless, this classic rivalry promises a captivating encounter.

Paul Merson’s Message to Sandro Tonali: Addressing the Issue, Not the Individual
Recent news surrounding the betting investigation into Italian players has garnered attention, particularly the revelation of Sandro Tonali’s gambling addiction. Tonali’s agent, Giuseppe Riso, expressed confidence in the player’s ability to conquer this challenge.

Former professional player Paul Merson, who has battled his own gambling addiction and strives to help others, offered words of support to Tonali. Merson emphasized the importance of understanding addiction as an illness and encouraged FIFA and others to provide assistance rather than imposing severe bans.

Headlines often focus on individuals rather than the underlying issue. As Merson rightly stated, empathy and understanding are vital in tackling the catastrophic problem of gambling addiction, which not only impacts finances but also jeopardizes mental health.

To quote Merson, “Addiction is a baffling, cunning, hideous disease that gets hold of you. Gambling addicts think they are bad people, but they’re not; they’re ill people who need to get well. That’s the message I want to get across…hate the addiction, not the person.”


Rooney’s Appointment: Status vs. Merit?
Wayne Rooney is set to make his managerial debut with Tom Brady’s Birmingham City (a sentence I never thought I’d write) in the Championship. This Saturday, he will face a reunion with his former Manchester United teammate and close friend Michael Carrick, now managing Middlesbrough.

However, the focus here lies not on the upcoming game but on the puzzling decision to appoint Rooney as manager. In my opinion, this choice seemed more driven by status than merit, especially considering that Rooney replaced John Eustace, who guided the club to a playoff spot before being dismissed.

There’s no denying Rooney’s contributions to the beautiful game as one of England’s all-time greats. But as a manager, he still has a long way to go. Though he valiantly led a financially struggling Derby County, he couldn’t save them from relegation. Moreover, he failed to secure a playoff spot in a league where over half the teams make it into the playoffs.


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