Two of the biggest names in football went down with injuries over the weekend. Right now, with league titles, cups and the World Cup looming, injuries are more key than ever. It's not just Barcelona and Chelsea worried about two of their stars, it's Brazil and Spain. With Neymar and Fernando Torres out for weeks rather than months, both clubs and countries can exhale a bit.
Neymar is still adjusting to the Barcelona style, while the team is adjusting to its third coach in three years. That doesn't help the transition, nor do the injuries Barca is uncharacteristically dealing with this season. After fighting through injuries earlier in the season, including a significant hamstring strain to Lionel Messi, an ankle sprain to Neymar doesn't help.
Neymar has a significant ankle strain. Yes, strain. Neymar suffered a significant injury to one of the tendons in his ankle as well as secondary injuries to other structures. It is accurate to call this a strain as well as a sprain, though normally the most significant injury, in this case the tendon strain, carries the day. The nomenclature is really insignificant, but the injury itself could cost him as much as a month.
The peroneal tendon works with the attached muscle, the peroneus longus, to plantar flex the foot, or raise the toes towards the knee. This is obviously something any football player would need and is involved in the stride. It was clear from the twisting of his ankle—there's video of it in this B/R article—that this was serious but it could have been worse. There is no rupture.
Without it functioning properly, Neymar will be unable to run normally and would put more pressure on the other leg and joints. He'll need not only to let the tendon and other structures heal, but make sure his speed and stride return to normal.
Once the function is returned, Neymar should be back to full speed quickly thereafter. He'll need to focus on conditioning, but it's entirely likely that he'll return early in February. That should give him and the team time to have him ready for the first tie in the Champions League.
Likewise, the news could have been worse for Torres. The Chelsea striker came on late in Sunday's match with Manchester United, subbing in for Samuel Eto'o after Eto'o put a hat-trick up in the big game. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said Torres would miss a "a few weeks," according to Goal.com, indicating it is a mild sprain, likely of the MCL (medial collateral ligament).
The MCL is needed for lateral moves, cutting and changing directions. Movement studies done in English football have also shown the MCL is needed for touch in kicks. The added laxity for a sprained knee can change how the player senses the leg and foot, so Torres may have issues even once he's back.
In the meantime, Torres' spot will be held by Demba Ba, who has overcome knee injuries of his own to be a dangerous striker. Ba's knees require a great deal of maintenance, but over a matter of weeks, it shouldn't be an issue for him and could give him a chance to showcase his abilities ahead of an expected sale.
While Torres has been a second choice for Mourinho, he still has hopes of returning to the Spanish squad. He's been replaced recently by Barca's Pedro and Man City's Alvaro Negredo. Losing time to the knee injury will make it even tougher for Torres to re-earn his place as Spain goes for back-to-back titles.
Watch for Torres to return after about a month, with some extra time added in if Ba plays well. Torres shouldn't have much issue in returning, though in the past he has shown some issue with play after getting back on the field after injury. Torres should begin running in about two weeks, but cutting and hard stops will be a tell for his possible return.
Both players will get world-class medical care and should be back in time for Champions League play. While neither is replaceable in the strictest sense, the teams have enough depth to get by even if the absences go longer than expected.