As Lionel Messi begins a set recovery programme designed to put an end to his persistent muscle injury issues, the Spanish media have looked at how a busy summer and internal issues at Barcelona may have contributed to the problems.
Barca said on Monday that Messi tore a muscle in his left thigh during Sunday’s 4-1 win at Real Betis, and is set to miss at least 10 Barcelona games between now and end of 2013, including Primera Division, Copa del Rey and Champions League fixtures.
Sport quickly recalled that Messi went four full seasons under previous Blaugrana coach Pep Guardiola without suffering a muscle injury. His current run of issues began last April when he strained a thigh muscle at Paris Saint-Germain, and he has now suffered a third similar injury in just three months this season.
AS looked into recent changes in Barcelona’s medical department. In previous seasons the club’s recovery expert Juanjo Brau was often by Messi’s side, even travelling with him to the 2010 World Cup and 2011 Copa America tournaments. But last summer Brau was promoted when Barca did not renew the contract of the club’s previous head of its medical department Emili Ricart [who had been close to Guardiola], meaning he now has less time to devote to Messi.
This has reportedly caused friction as Messi is unhappy with the support he has been given during this season’s ongoing problems. Hence Argentina national team kinesiologist Luis Garcia is to personally supervise his recovery over next couple of months.
The reigning Ballon d’Or holder’s hectic summer 2013, which included friendly games and commercial appearances for club, country and his own personal foundation, has also been highlighted. In 64 days Messi took ‘three trips around the world’, travelling a total of 122,333 kilometres, while visiting Senegal, Argentina , Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Norway, Germany, Poland, Barcelona, Milan, Israel, Palestine, Thailand and Malaysia.
Messi's summer travels, all 122,333 km of them. [In Spanish, but you get the idea] pic.twitter.com/qpQSyRD4aK— AS English (@English_AS) November 12, 2013
There was also the distraction of his tax case, which now appears to be resolved, but only after he and his father Jorge gave evidence, and a reported 15 million euros in back-tax and charges was paid. Messi has also started working closely with nutritionist Silvia Tremolada recently, and has lost a few kilograms due to a new diet.
Mundo Deportivo took a more positive slant, looking forward and detailing the six-step plan which has been designed for Messi’s recovery. This includes a fortnight getting daily treatment at the Camp Nou, which will then further treatment at the Argentine FA’s facility in Buenos Aires and be followed by a rest period when he will have regular visits from Barca medical staff. After a 'mini-preseason' over Christmas he will then be eased back into action early in the new year, with no deadline set yet for his first game back.
On a visit to the supporters club named in his honour, 'Penya Blaugrana Xavi', on Monday, teammate Xavi Hernandez said he was sure Messi would be back as good as ever, while admitting Barca would miss him when he was away.
"Messi will return," Xavi said. "He will get better and be back again entertaining us. We know the importance of Messi in this team. Leo is the player who makes a difference at a world class level. There is no player capable of doing what he can."
Argentina coach Sabella said he was concerned about the string of similar injuries, but called for optimism and patience.
"We have spoken, of course this is a big blow," Sabella said. "We will have to wait on his recovery. I am not a specialist, although it is worrying when players get an injury in the same place. We must be optimistic and calm about things."