There was likely a sharp intake of breath by those at Camp Nou as Lionel Messi went down in a heap in the middle of the pitch. Despite seeming fine to continue after a forceful tackle from Pedro Bigas in the box, he was soon withdrawn from Barcelona’s 2-1 victory over Las Palmas.
As footage emerged of the No 10 hobbling out of a nearby hospital, news after the match soon confirmed their worst fears; 7-8 weeks out with a tear in the medial collateral ligament of his left knee was the official prognosis from the club in regards to the severity of the injury.
In that time, he will miss some crucial La Liga matches and the majority of the Champions League group stage. Barca will be hit hardest, however, should he miss the trip to the Bernabeu for the Clasico on November 22, although there’s a chance he will be fit in time.
It has left Barca with doing the unthinkable – playing without Messi. The 28-year-old is a highly influential player, and even if he isn’t on song, he always plays. He featured in every League and Champions League match last season and has nearly 500 appearances for La Blaugrana.
After a string of injuries during his younger days, Messi has been seemingly fortunate to avoid too many serious injuries up until now, although – in truth – luck has little to do with it after he was put on a specialised training and nutrition regime and given a personalised physiotherapist to counteract his frequent problems.
As a result, the diminutive Argentine has become resilient and is often able to bounce straight back up, despite the numerous tackles he absorbs. But there was no getting back up this time. Barca will have to do without the talents and goals of the forward for best part of two months, although Luis Enrique is confident his side can play just as well without their talisman:
“We’ll play no differently than we do with Messi,” Lucho said after their win against the new boys. “Messi liberates us and gives us solutions, but we have to make do with what we have. We have many quality players [barring Messi].”
As Enrique says, the rest of his team will have to carry the burden of goalscoring in Messi’s absence. There are not many players in the world are capable of burdening such responsibility consistently – luckily Barca have two.
Both Luis Suarez and Neymar are likely to be the players Lucho looks to for getting him goals. Suarez stepped up on the day, scoring a brace against Las Palmas, and while Neymar skied a penalty, he has three goals in his last five League matches. In fact, the pair scored 64 goals between them last season.
Munir El Haddadi replaced Messi during the match and could feature more regularly, along with Sandro Ramirez, who also saw game time. The starlets have an amazing opportunity to impress their manager with a decent run in the first team.
The injury comes at a time where La Blaugrana can ill-afford to lose any more players. Rafinha has been side-lined with a long-term knee injury, while Thomas Vermaelen’s fitness troubles have returned. In addition, Dani Alves was still not fit enough to start for their match against the Canarians, with Claudio Bravo not making the matchday squad as he continues his recovery from a calf problem.
Messi’s last serious injury came in November 2013, when he missed two months as a result of a hamstring tear. Barca only lost one match in that period, however, and with an arguably-stronger side now, the treble-winners should cope nonetheless.