What was a meaningless game for FC Barcelona on Wednesday ended up becoming the football story of the night as Lionel Messi was carted off in the 85th minute of Barça’s UEFA Champions League game against Benfica.
Messi had come into the game in the 59th minute, as the Argentine replaced Rafinha. Leo had few chances at goal up to the 85th minute. Gerard Pique sent a lob pass to an onside Messi who had a one-on-one with Benfica goalkeeper Artur. Messi tried to avoid Artur’s sliding grasp for the ball. Leo was able to get away from the goalkeeper’s slide; however, it looked like Leo planted his left foot hard on the ground when avoiding Artur.
Messi continued with his run, turned around and tried to lob up a goal. Once Messi kicked the ball, he fell on the ground in pain, as it looked like his left knee gave out. Artur had recovered and easily grabbed Messi’s shot.
The Camp Nou was silent for a few minutes as Leo lay on the pitch—in pain.
Messi was stretchered off and received a standing ovation from the fans.
After the game, Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta told Spain's Canal+ that Messi’s injury was not serious. “Messi’s injury appears minor, but will have further tests”, said Zubizarreta.
Jose Manuel Pinto, who played in place of Victor Valdes in the Benfica game, also told TV3 (Catalunya) that Messi looked OK. “The doctors are looking at Messi’s knee now”, said Pinto. “I spoke with Messi and he told me he’s fine. He told me to relax.”
Later on his Facebook page, Leo Messi thanked his fans for their well wishes.
“I want to thank to all of you for your messages of support! I copy the Press Release from FC Barcelona Medical Department. ‘Messi has a bruise on the outside of his left knee.’”
Thank goodness Leo is OK.
No footballer is inescapable to injury. Lionel Messi is human after all—although there are moments that it seems like he’s from another planet.
If, in fact, Lionel Messi is out long-term, we will all be disappointed that Messi will not be able to break Gerd Müller’s record of 85 goals in a calendar year.
But the effect on FC Barcelona would be a tough pill for Tito Vilanova to swallow. Nevertheless, football goes on, and Barcelona would have to march on without its number one solider.
If the worst case scenario ever happened to Lionel Messi and he was out for a while, what would FC Barcelona have to do to maintain its winning ways?
Let’s look at what a long Lionel Messi absence would mean for Barcelona, and what Tito Vilanova may have to consider doing if Messi out for a while.