In a week chock full of international friendlies, plenty of 2014 World Cup invitees have been fine-tuning their lineups ahead of the summer tournament. One of the more disappointing performances came from the highly fancied Argentina, who were held to a goalless draw by Romania.
There wasn't an awful lot to write home about the Albiceleste performance, but one very significant event occurred in the seventh minute.
Leo Messi was sick.
I don't mean sick in the youth vernacular—he literally doubled over and placed his left hand over his mouth before throwing up on the field during the game.
Fortunately, Messi was well enough to continue for the full 90 minutes. This is not, however, the first time the 26-year-old has vomited during a high profile game. It's actually the fourth.
The Atomic Flea first lost his lunch during the 2011 Spanish Super Cup Final against Real Madrid.
Clearly, it didn't affect his performance too significantly as he scored shortly afterwards.
One year ago Messi was reportedly sick on the pitch at half time in an Argentina match in Bolivia. After the game, which was played at over 13,000 feet above sea level, Messi told The Daily Mail:
It is terrible to play here at altitude [...] Every time you make an effort or play at high pace, you need time to recover.
Some of the players had a headache and others felt a bit dizzy, but there was nothing wrong with me.
Around six months ago, the Barca star was struck down with illness once again, he doubled over and dry-heaved during a 7-0 win over Levante in which he scored twice.
He was eventually taken off the field with nearly 20 minutes to play.
After the incident in Bucharest this week, Messi was defiant when quizzed by the Spanish media about his sickness. "The vomiting is nothing that has not happened to me before," he told a TV channel in quotes reported by Barcelona-based newspaper Sport. "It is something that always happens to me," he added with an apparent air of nonchalance.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella, meanwhile, told reporters in a post-match press conference that he drank some water a little too quickly, which evidently resulted in it leaving his body a little too quickly.
Messi appears to be exhibiting signs of exercise-induced nausea. A 2001 study found that this can be caused by either fasting before exercise, eating too quickly and being dehydrated or being overly hydrated.
One would assume that a professional athlete has his dietary routine honed to a tee—and that dehydration and overhydration would not be an issue—but this is a player who reportedly defied Pep Guardiola's rules by drinking a can of Coke right in front of him in the dressing room (I reported on this story in September).
So, perhaps the Atomic Flea has been enjoying some unhealthy snacks against all recommendations?
It is also feasible that the nausea has been caused by over-exertion and fatigue.
On top of his regular duties for club and country, Messi had an exceptionally busy summer. It was reported that he flew the equivalent of three times around the world doing promotional work and playing non-competitive games in the summer of 2013.
Essentially, Messi never gets a break. Such a hectic schedule may be taxing his body too much, which may contribute to the recent injuries he has suffered and these digestive complaints.
At the moment, Messi's illness doesn't seem to be having too much of an adverse effect on his game. He has scored nine times in his past nine games and he's back to the prolific form for which we know and love him. Plus, as we saw in Bucharest this week, it didn't stop him playing for the rest of the game.
However, he has been sick three times in the past year—it is clearly becoming a regular event. If it happens again soon, this will become an issue that Messi can no longer act blase about.
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