How Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and co fared in Inter Miami's first 2024 pre-season friendly

  • Inter Miami travelled to Central America for a friendly with the national team of El Salvador
  • Suarez made his unofficial debut for the Herons after completing a move from Gremio
  • Messi came closest to scoring for the visitors in a 0-0 draw
Lionel Messi (centre) skipped FIFA's The Best awards to play in Inter's first preseason friendly of 2024
Lionel Messi (centre) skipped FIFA's The Best awards to play in Inter's first preseason friendly of 2024 / MARVIN RECINOS/GettyImages

The last time all four of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba started alongside one another, they lost 8-2.

Inter Miami's newly formed 'Fab Four' lined up together for Barcelona in August 2020, slumping to a thumping at the hands of Bayern Munich in the eerie setting of a one-legged Champions League quarter-final in an empty Estadio da Luz.

The stands of the Cuscatlan Stadium in San Salvador were packed hours before Inter Miami's first pre-season friendly of the year against the El Salvador national team on Friday night. Muddying the waters of sporting royalty even further than half-and-half scarves, some supporters were kitted out with half-and-half shirts.

Many inside the ground neglected the blue and white of their nation entirely, watching on from the stands after crowding around Miami's team bus in the visitors' pink home strip. There was a worldwide shortage of Messi's official number ten shirt shortly after his Miami debut last year but replicas were available in San Salvador for as little as $5 (£4).

This reunion of footballing talent was considered significant enough for El Salvador's president Nayib Bukele to pose for a photo op alongside Messi, taking his motorcade to the team's hotel ahead of kick off.

Here's what the expectant crowd were treated to in a 0-0 draw.

Luis Suarez endures subdued debut

Luis Suarez
There wasn't much to shout about regarding Luis Suarez's Miami debut / Hector Vivas/GettyImages

Suarez and Messi not only enjoyed a telepathic understanding on the pitch but were best friends off the field as well. The pair were neighbours in Catalonia's capital for six years, occasional babysitters for each other's children and their wives went into business together.

However, the three-and-a-half years apart left an understandable coat of rust on the partnership. It was only at the start of December that Suarez revealed the "constant pain" he suffers through to continue playing professionally.

Starting up front with Messi in a 5-3-2, Suarez had precious few sights of goal in a disjointed outing. As one of only two players to hit double digits for goals and assists in the Brazilian top flight last season, the 36-year-old still has plenty to offer. He just didn't show it in San Salvador.

Lionel Messi looks sharp ahead of new season

El Salvador goalkeeper Mario Gonzalez has never played football outside of his homeland and is yet to come up against a national team ranked inside FIFA's top ten. However, he will always be able to lay claim to a hard-fought clean sheet against Messi and co.

Inter Miami were comfortably dominant without being decisive in the first half. It wasn't until the 36th minute that the Leagues Cup champions demonstrated their potent potential. All four members of what the club are calling the 'quadrant' were involved in a move into El Salvador's box.

At the sharp end of the sequence, Messi exchanged passes with Busquets before battering a close-range effort on target. Gonzalez rebuffed the initial drive and sprang back to his feet to smother the freshly crowned best men's player in the world.

Messi missed FIFA's awards ceremony in London to prepare for the trip to El Salvador and clearly benefitted from the focused schedule. The chants of "Messi! Messi!" which rang around the ground were not only inspired by the Argentine's golden legacy but the sharp touches that marked him above everyone else on the pitch.

Tata Martino forced to compromise

Gerardo Martino
Inter Miami manager Gerardo 'Tata' Martino only played his stars for 45 minutes / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

Boos spluttered out of the stands at half-time as all four of Messi, Suarez, Busquets and Alba failed to re-emerge onto the pitch. After just six days of training, there was no guarantee that Inter Miami manager Gerardo 'Tata' Martino would field any of the Fab Four.

However, the demands of the public and - more importantly - television producers superseded any fitness concerns. Miami's stars survived the opening 45 minutes unscathed but not every visitor was so lucky.

Facundo Farias - one of the half-time replacements - had to be stretchered off, leaving Miami with ten players for the final 20 minutes. With the crowd free to cheer on their own nation in the absence of Miami's stars, El Salvador almost struck an upset as Styven Vasquez's 83rd-minute header clanked off the crossbar.

The external demand to continually play Barcelona's old boys will only increase once the competitive fixtures start to pile up. Miami's run in the Leagues Cup last year brought the franchise's first trophy but also overworked Messi into a muscle injury that derailed his final months of the season.

Inter Miami's 2024 preseason fixtures

Inter Miami's jam-packed pre-season takes in seven games across five countries. Messi and co will jet off for a friendly in Dallas before the Riyadh Cup in Saudi Arabia where a potential reunion with Cristiano Ronaldo awaits.

After a brief sojourn in Hong Kong and Japan, the Herons face the boyhood team of Messi and Martino, Newell's Old Boys. Miami's first MLS game of 2024 takes place on 22 February against Real Salt Lake.





El Salvador 0-0 Inter Miami

Cuscatlan Stadium, San Salvador


FC Dallas vs Inter Miami

Cotton Bowl, Dallas


Al Hilal vs Inter Miami

Kingdom Arena, Riyadh


Al Nassr vs Inter Miami

Kingdom Arena, Riyadh


Hong Kong XI vs Inter Miami

Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong


Vissel Kobe vs Inter Miami

Japan National Stadium, Tokyo


Inter Miami vs Newell's Old Boys

DRV PNK Stadium, Florida