It may be true that that Barcelona have, at least in part, addressed the issue of ‘Messidependencia’ which has been levelled at them over the past few years – whether it had any particular substance is a different argument. But even if they are equipped to deal with the loss of their talisman until next year, any club would be prone to suffer with the injury list which seems in continual growth at Camp Nou.
Jordi Alba has been a long term absentee now, with Adriano, as ever, in and out of fitness and news this week suggesting Dani Alves, Cristian Tello and Xavi Hernandez will face spells on the sidelines.
However, perhaps the biggest concern for Gerardo Martino will have been the images of Victor Valdes limping off in Johannesburg as Spain lost 1-0 to South Africa on Tuesday night. Barcelona have since confirmed that their goalkeeper will spend six weeks out of action with a torn calf muscle, setting the stage for 38-year-old Jose Pinto to come into the side for a busy run of fixtures.
Never mind ‘Messidependencia’, could Barca be about to suffer from ‘Valdesdependencia’?
The 31-year-old, who is set to leave Barcelona at the end of the season, has been in splendid form throughout the current campaign and his loss will not go unnoticed. Time and time again he has produced vital saves at vital moments in matches, including during La Blaugrana’s win against Real Betis last time out.
In that match in Seville he made four stops, including one wonder save – which has drawn comparisons with that famous Gordon Banks save – when the score was still goalless. It wasn’t the first time a Valdes performance had caught the eye; in a 3-2 win against Valencia early on in the season he was forced into eight saves, while in Barcelona’s 4-0 win against Rayo Vallecano he made nine en route to his clean sheet.
Will Jose Pinto, whose friendship with Messi and character arguably keeps him as Barca’s No. 2, be able to reproduce that sort of form in some tough looking league fixtures which are approaching?
Pinto, 38, would possibly have played the Copa del Rey and Champions League matches – Barca have already qualified – before Christmas anyway, but Martino would not have been banking on him for upcoming games against Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal, who sit fifth and fourth in La Liga respectively.
It’s unlikely that the former Celta Vigo ‘keeper will be able to make the sort of impact Valdes has made this season, and nor should it be expected. He’s played second fiddle at Camp Nou for far too long now; it’s only normal that his sharpness, focus and big match ability may have taken a drop.
Not that Pinto is thinking that way. It was only last week, before Valdes’ injury, that Pinto told Spanish radio he’s got his eyes on his colleague’s gloves: “I never stop fighting for a spot,” he said. “There’s a long way to go until next year, but I’m training to be No. 1.”
Well now’s your chance Jose, are you up to it?