Messi injury: The blame game must stop

Posted by Francesc Tomas

On Sunday, Lionel Messi sustained yet another muscle injury at Betis, his third in little more than 10 weeks of official competition.

From the moment the club officially confirmed the talented Argentine was predicted to be out the next two months with a torn left hamstring, many quickly jumped to conclusions and began speculating about the reasons for his recurring fitness problems.

The never-ending string of friendlies that his "Messi & Friends" charity scheduled around the world during the summer break. Bad management by Tito Vilanova during the crucial stages of last season, when Leo was brought into high-tempo games despite his physical condition being far from optimal. His falling out with long-term physio Juanjo Brau. A supposed change in his diet. The lack of sleep due to the arrival of baby Thiago. The regrettable tax-related media circus. Poor attitude toward training with Barcelona in order to reach the World Cup in peak condition.

The list goes on and on and on, but speculation won't get Leo healthy again.

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Honestly, if Cules believed all the rubbish that the Spanish media have spouted following Messi's injury, they would most likely change sides and support Real Madrid and their beloved Cristiano Ronaldo instead.

Luckily, there is no need to take such drastic action. If we take a step back and analyse the situation, we can see that a player who has made a massive 239 appearances for club and country in the last four years is now injured and expected to come back within the next two months. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I just don't see what the big deal is.

Injuries are part of every athlete's life and must be understood as part of the job. Those who push their bodies to the limit are more likely to be periodically hurt -- the ultra-committed Carles Puyol has, unsurprisingly, had a whopping 36 injuries since his professional debut.

I just don't see the need to blow this out of proportion. While it's obvious that changes must be made to the way Messi's fitness has been assessed and maintained in recent times, overdramatising the current situation just won't help.

Don't get me wrong: Messi is right to be worried, and it is only natural he feels that way. Considering the constant media scrutiny around Messi, the road toward recovery is likely to become stressful unless he finds a way to get away, both physically and mentally.

Muscle injuries are tricky and often linked to the player's confidence in his own fitness whenever contact may occur. Having played football for many years (though not at a professional level), I have experienced a variety of serious injuries myself.

While being on the sidelines was difficult, it was the coming-back-to-fitness process I always found the most challenging. Whether I wanted it or not, the fear of getting hurt again was always at the back of my mind during that early readjustment period.

I was glad to hear that Messi's family and the Barcelona board agreed for Argentine kinesiologist Luis Garcia to assist Leo on his way to recovery. Having worked with No. 10 during the 2007-08 season, it seems clear the world-class forward's entourage believes that a new approach is needed to ensure Messi's health from now on.

Spending part of his recovery back in Rosario, under Garcia's careful guidance, should also help Messi recharge batteries from an emotional point of view. A temporary change of scenery, given the circumstances, is likely to give him that much-needed peace in order to come back stronger.

I am fully aware many are concerned about the time that La Pulga will be forced to spend away from the pitch and about how Barcelona may cope without him. His countrymen are terrified at the prospect of not being able to count on the world's best player in the 2014 World Cup.

While I understand their feelings, I strongly believe that full recovery, without a specific comeback deadline or target, is the only way forward at this point. No point on adding unnecessary pressure by worrying about what may happen (or not) in a hypothetical future.

Despite having been under the spotlight from a very early age, it is worth reminding the most sceptical that Messi is just 26. Many legendary athletes have had worse injuries and come back stronger, so there is simply no reason to doubt Messi is capable of doing just that.

Jordi Alba has been away for most of the season, and nobody has felt the need to disturb him during his recovery period. Vilanova's demand for time and privacy during cancer treatments has also been respected by all within Catalunya and beyond.

Considering everything that La Pulga has given Barcelona and Argentina supporters over the years, it is only fair they get off his case and give him enough time to recover both physically and mentally.

See you again when you are ready, Leo.

The Quote -- "Messi has to stop to take the time that he needs to emphasise his explosiveness. Something similar happened to me at Arsenal; I was badly affected. You believe you're okay at first but you're not. I was disappointed to miss out on some games but I continued to grow. I spent half a year with the ordeal; it was a very bad injury. Messi has to stop as it takes time to recover if it does not heal properly." -- Cesc Fabregas.

84,000 Cules follow Francesc Tomas at @TomasESPN and Barcablog Facebook for news and opinion notes on Barcelona.


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