6 Things That Have Happened in Football Since Lionel Messi Was Injured
If a week is a long time in football, two months are a lifetime.
Especially if those two months are spent deprived of watching Lionel Messi play.
The Argentine had been struggling with muscle issues until a hamstring injury put him out of action. His last game for Barcelona was on November 10.
He headed back to his homeland for part of his rehabilitation—his longest period out with injury since his run of form which included four consecutive Ballon d'Or gongs.
How has the footballing landscape progressed in those two months? We've highlighted six key changes.
Argentina Found out Their Path to World Cup Glory in 2014
Argentina were pitted against Nigeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran in the 2014 World Cup when the draw took place on December 6.
The odds of them reaching the knockout stages look very good indeed, and many are tipping them to meet Brazil in the World Cup final.
Their chances will probably be a whole lot better if Messi, who has 20 goals in his last 20 international games, is in good shape.
Messi Can Score from Behind the Posts Now
While it's not entirely clear whether this has a practical real-world application, it's a neat trick to learn and show off while you're convalescing.
Cristiano Ronaldo Has Scored Another 10 Goals
When Ronaldo and Messi play, both score a lot of goals.
Messi was injured so he hasn't added to his remarkable tally, but Ronaldo has shown precisely how lethal a combination excellence and not being injured can be by notching 10 goals during Messi's absence.
Four came in La Liga, despite the winter break, and another two in the Champions League group games. A further four were scored for Portugal in the team's games against Sweden for a place in the 2014 World Cup, which confirmed that Ronaldo was the favourite for the Ballon d'Or.
Stats via Soccerway
Messi Has Won Another Award
That's right—being injured doesn't seem to stop Messi collecting gongs.
Early in his absence, the Argentine collected the Golden Boot and paraded it in front of the Barcelona fans at the Nou Camp.
It was for his goalscoring exploits in the 2012/13 season, but when you've got a body of work that good to fall back on, you can just keep ticking the prizes off.
A Quarter of Premier League Clubs Have New Managers
Premier League football in the pre-Messi injury era was a strange and unfamiliar place, with a host of forgotten names in charge at major clubs.
Sure, Malky Mackay and Vincent Tan didn't always see eye to eye, but Cardiff were doing all right in their first top-flight campaign since promotion.
Crystal Palace hadn't been Tony Pulis-ed and weren't pulling away to safety.
Meanwhile, a young Andre Villas-Boas was fusing a team of talent together at White Hart Lane, sitting fourth in the table with Spurs going into the weekend's games.
Stats via Statto
Barcelona Have Done Just About OK in His Absence
Barcelona: Played nine, won seven, lost two.
Of those two defeats, one was something of an irrelevance. Their loss to Ajax in the Champions League had no bearing on whether they qualified or not.
They stayed top of La Liga and banged in 29 goals in Messi's absence.
It could have been worse.
Stats via Soccerway