The Camp Nou faithful—and football fans the world over—had their hearts in their mouths as Lionel Messi was stretchered off the pitch Wednesday night after a clash with Benfica goalkeeper Artur.
Injuries are always unfortunate for any player, but with La Pulga just a goal shy of Gerd Müller’s calendar-year goal record, this blow seems particularly ill-timed for the Argentine attacker.
Most supporters will be looking for Messi—who has, in recent years, seemed to possess an almost superhuman resilience—to make a quick return and book his place in history. And with last night's tests indicating the injury to milder than originally feared, it looks as if Messi may be fit in time for Barca's next La Liga fixture.
But Tito Vilanova should be wary of calls to get him quickly back on the pitch. Messi’s health, and Barcelona’s season, should be the only factors Vilanova considers in deciding his return date.
Certainly it’s a shame for the sport any time a player like Messi has to sit and watch from the sidelines. Nevertheless, Barcelona should see a few silver linings from the injury, as well as a host of reasons he should remain comfortably off the pitch until fully fit to return.