Barça mourns Messi injury
Argentine breaks down for fourth time in two years6 March 2008
BARCELONA/MADRID - Barcelona's victory over Glasgow Celtic to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League on Tuesday night was little more than a stroll in the park, but the 1-0 win - 4-2 over the two legs - was marred by the sight of Leo Messi once again writhing in pain on the Camp Nou turf.
The news yesterday was that the 20-year-old forward, whose sparkling form has lit up an often lacklustre season for Barcelona, will be out of action for at least six weeks after tearing the biceps femoris muscle in his left thigh. His team mates were visibly upset by the Argentine prodigy's fourth serious injury in the past two years, with captain Jordi Puyol even attacking the media for what he considered pressure on the club management to play the fragile star.
"You [the press] have pressured for him to play, and now we're all sorry," Puyol said after the game against Celtic, in which midfielder Xavi's early goal ensured that the home team could coast through the rest of the match having already established a lead in Glasgow two weeks ago.
Indeed, coach Frank Rijkaard's decision to leave Messi out of last weekend's Liga defeat against Atlético de Madrid had been questioned in some sections of the sports media, despite the club's explanation that the medical advice had been to give the player a rest.
"It's bad news, a sad moment for him and everyone," Rijkaard commented on learning the extent of the injury. When asked by the press if Messi's medical situation was carefully monitored, the usually phlegmatic coach gave an angry reply: "Saying that is an insult to the people who work in the locker room, and who are at the players' disposition to help the players every day."
In comments posted on the club website yesterday, Puyol clarified that the team managers had never been influenced by pressure from the media. "I never said that, nor do I think it," the defender said.
The latest injury to the striker who, according to most observers has become La Liga's best player ahead of Barça teammate Ronaldinho, means Messi will miss the Champions League quarterfinal, half a dozen league games and the King's Cup semifinal second leg against Zaragoza. In 2006 he tore his right thigh playing against Chelsea, before injuring his foot later that year. Last December Messi damaged his left thigh in Valencia.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / LUIS MARTÍN / Jaume Bauzá Leira 2008]