Lionel Messi has likely played his last game of 2013 after tests carried out on Monday found that the Barcelona forward tore a muscle in his left thigh during the previous night’s 4-1 Primera Division win at Real Betis.
Messi, 26, appeared to suffer an injury during a sprint while challenging for the ball with Betis defender Jose Caro in the 18th minute. The four-time Ballon d'Or winner immediately approached the Barca dugout to tell them he was hurt, and Andres Iniesta replaced him in the 21st minute.
At the time it looked like the Argentina captain had suffered another muscle problem, and confirmation of a tear came via a club statement released on Monday.
“The club’s medical services confirmed after tests this Monday morning that Leo Messi has a torn hamstring muscle in his left thigh and is expected to miss the next six to eight weeks,” the statement read. “The first phase of Messi’s recovery will be covered in Barcelona and he will then travel to Buenos Aires.”
Given Barca’s last match before this season’s winter break is at Getafe on Dec. 24, it now looks likely Messi will get to spend Christmas at home in Argentina and perhaps be back in action for his club’s first game of 2014 at home to Elche on Jan. 4 or 5, before attending the Ballon d'Or ceremony in Zurich on Jan. 13.
The torn muscle was just the latest setback in what has been an extremely frustrating start to the season for Messi, despite the fact he has still scored 14 goals in the 16 games he has played in.
“This is Messi’s third injury this season,” Barca’s statement added. “On Aug. 21 in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Atletico Madrid, he suffered a bruised thigh which kept him out for a week and then against Almeria on Sept. 28, he suffered a small muscle tear in his right thigh which kept him on the sidelines for three weeks.”
Barca figures including coach Gerardo Martino have continued to play down any worries at this run of injuries.
Messi himself and his own father, however, have made clear of their concern at the situation in recent statements.
Cesc Fabregas, meanwhile, said after the Betis game that it was time for his Blaugrana teammate to have a proper rest to allow the injury to heal.
"[Messi] must stop for the time he needs, and he needs that explosiveness to stand out," Fabregas said. "You think you are fine, but then you are not. I had that injury, and it is a very annoying injury. He must rest for the time he needs, or it will not heal properly."