Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi celebrates scoring a goal for Inter Miami. AFP

A string of bad results has left Lionel Messi's Inter Miami CF unable to qualify for the MLS playoffs, effectively ending the team's season later this month.

With the arrival of Messi earlier this year, fans expected the team to reverse its standing in the league (it was at the bottom of the Eastern Conference) and make it to the post-season. However, despite the positive changes, Messi's absence due to injury in a series of matches proved impossible to overcome and the team went back to struggling. Now that playoffs are out of the table, there is speculation over Messi's short-term future.

The Miami-based club will be out of action until the 2024 - 2025 MLS competition, which starts in February of next year. Fans and pundits are speculating about the possibility that Messi will join another team on loan to continue playing and stay in shape for next season.

In soccer, a loan allows a player to temporarily join and play for another team while maintaining their contract with the parent club. The loan length is negotiated between the parent and acquiring clubs. In Messi's situation, he could to go on loan for four months or until the start of the next MLS season.

Short-term loans are not uncommon for MLS superstars. In 2013, David Beckham, who is now part owner of Inter Miami, joined the French club Paris St-Germain on a five-month loan after his time with La Galaxy. And a year prior, New York Red Bulls player Thierry Henry joined Arsenal on a two-month loan in order to continue training during the off-season.

According to the Daily Mail, Messi has been linked with temporarily joining several clubs. The two most likely are Barcelona, the club Messi played at for over 18 years; the other one an unnamed club in Saudi Arabia's Pro League.

Joining the Saudi Pro League would revive Messi's fiercest rivalry with the Portuguese superstar, Cristiano Rolando, who played for Real Madrid when the Argentine shined in Barcelona.

Despite the speculation, Messi has not publicly commented on his future and has left the door open to the possibility of staying at Inter Miami and resting during the off-season.

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