Barcelona fans worldwide held their breath on Sunday when Lionel Messi left the pitch early with an injury for the third time this season. The Catalans went on to win the match 4-1, but all eyes remained on Messi.
The club recently announced on their official website that Messi is expected to miss between six and eight weeks of action. For some, it could seem as though the world is ending.
Though fans are understandably worried and concerned, there is no reason to be afraid for Messi. He is still one of the best players in the world and there is no reason why he should be written off now.
Let's take a look at the keys for Messi to catch fire when he returns.
All player statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.
Messi absolutely hates sitting on the bench. You can see it on his face and read his anger at those rare times when he is subbed off the pitch.
When he is cleared to play again, it’s likely that he will jump straight back into the starting lineup.
The 26-year-old may not be happy with it, but the best thing for him in the long run is to just rest. He may feel 100 percent and the doctors may clear him to play, but Messi needs extra time to get back to his best.
The worst thing a player can do when injured is to keep going. That may be one of the reasons why Messi has dealt with injuries this year. He refuses to slow down and rest.
Though no one really knows what is going on in the Barcelona medical room, it is clear that Messi must be more patient. The world knows how badly he wants to play. However, if the Argentine is to be at his best at the end of the season, he will have to take the necessary steps now.
Tata Martino also plays a role in this, as Messi will likely tell the manager that he is fine to play. Martino will have to make a choice. The only choice is to tell Messi to wait a bit longer.
Being out for eight weeks seems unimaginable, but at the same time it could be a blessing in disguise.
In a sense, Lionel Messi is Barcelona. The Catalan club just doesn’t look right without Messi, but the Argentine must trust his teammates.
In no way am I saying that Messi doesn’t trust them already. I’m merely stating that he must do so now more than ever.
As he sits on the bench and recovers, he wants to be on the pitch running the show. Part of Messi’s frustration at not playing is likely the feeling that he is letting the team down.
Luckily for the 26-year-old, he has teammates around him that are in incredible form. Neymar, Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas are all peaking and Messi needs to let them do what they can for now.
Barcelona will be fine without Messi, and he has to understand that.
What's more, he must also trust his teammates when he does return to the pitch. Messi has always been the player that gives it everything he has, and the wear is starting to show on his body.
Messi can no longer expect to simply carry the team when he doesn’t have to. It is time for him to trust that goals can be scored and let his teammates do some of the hard work.
This last key to catching fire may be the one Messi hates the most.
The Argentine lives for scoring goals. Some might say that is his reason for living.
The entire goal of Messi’s recovery is to get back to scoring goals for Barcelona, but the only way that will happen is if he stops thinking about it.
His desire to finally score again was visible in his last few games. Messi pushed himself more than usual and got visibly upset at himself when he missed some shots.
As crazy as it sounds, Messi was desperate to find the back of the net.
Being desperate is never a good thing. For Messi to be at his best, he needs to simply focus on helping the team win.
Even when he doesn’t score, Messi is still the most influential player on the pitch. He drags defenders out of position, he creates chances and he dictates all play.
If Messi can focus all of his energy on helping the team win, the goals will eventually come. Messi lives to score and he will continue to find the back of the net many times and in amazing ways.
The 26-year-old has always made scoring look easy and that is where he needs to be again. He can’t try to force it, he must simply play his games and the goals will come.
This isn’t a time to fear for Leo Messi. He will be back and better than ever because that is what he always does. Barcelona fans should not panic for their star player. Instead, they should celebrate for him and look forward to his return.
Barcelona will get by for the next few weeks without Messi. It won't be easy, but it is more than possible. For now, the focus isn't getting Messi back, its getting Messi healthy.
How long should Messi wait before returning? What should he do to be at his best when he does return? Leave your thoughts and comments below!