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Messi fitness management defended

Lionel Messi has thanked fans for the support he has received in recent days, as Barcelona figures have defended the club's handling of his fitness over recent months.

Hunter: Turning point for Messi
Ledwith: Barca can cope
Media begins injury inquest
Alves: Neymar ready to fill in

Messi suffered a third thigh muscle injury of the season during last weekend’s 4-1 La Liga win at Real Betis. He is now to get a long rest to allow the injury to heal and his general condition to improve, so that he can return without any problems next January.

The Argentine took to Facebook on Tuesday evening to say he was unhappy to be out of action, but looking forward to returning when he could.

Barcelona insist there is nothing unusual in the way Messi's latest injury is being treated.
Barcelona insist there is nothing unusual in the way Messi's latest injury is being treated.

"As many of you know, over the next few weeks I will be working full-time on the recovery of this new injury, for me it is a pity not to play with my team right now…," the post said. "Now the most important is to be recovered well for helping my teammates and for giving back all the support you've given to me in the best way I know how to do, playing football. Thank you for your messages!"

Earlier Argentina national team physio Luis Garcia had arrived in Catalonia on Tuesday to begin helping the four-time Ballon d'Or winner through the recovery process, apparently after a personal request from Messi himself. Barcelona board spokesperson Toni Freixa denied it was odd that Messi was not happy to rely on his club’s medical staff at this time.

"If you look in the archives, they are full of examples of players who wanted to be surrounded by their own people during their treatment," Freixa said. "In this case Messi is fully within his rights to ask to be treated by someone he knows. But it is our obligation, and could not be understood any other way, that Barca will always be over the recovery process."

Barca sporting director Zubizarreta told Catalan station TV3 that Messi was ‘only human’ and should be given room away from the spotlight to get back to his best.

"Leo is a player who makes extraordinary demands," Zubizarreta said. "With a competitive drive, to be the best every day, and that can be exhausting. Sometimes we forget that these are people, human beings. You must find something positive in the negative, turn things around, and return at 100 percent. We must give him time and space so that Leo feels comfortable, that way he can recharge his batteries. We do not want to make all this into a drama."

‘Zubi’ also said that there had been no issues between the player, his family, and the club, over how the recovery process would be handled.

"There was talk with him, with his father, with his brother and with the medical services," he said. "It was decided that the first part would be done here, and the second in Argentina. There was a consensus. [Barca physio] Elvio Paolorosso will accompany him."

The former Barca goalkeeper reminded sceptical journalists that Garcia, now a kinesiologist who works mainly with the Argentina national side, had worked with Messi before at Barcelona during Frank Rijkaard’s time as coach.

"The arrival of Luis Garcia was agreed by both parties," Zubizarreta said. "He will be always supervised by our medical services. There was a search for the person who would bring calm for Leo. Luis Garcia treated him during Rijkaard’s last year."

Barca's in-house expert Juanjo Brau worked closely with Messi during his three injury-free seasons under previous coach Pep Guardiola, but was promoted to a more senior role last summer. Brau was still on hand when required, Zubizarreta said.

"Juanjo is responsible for the physiotherapy area," he said. "He has a higher role now and cannot attend him so much on an individual level. The only thing we want is for the player to get the best attention. In a moment, with Juanjo close, and now with Juanjo 30 centimetres further away."

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