Lionel Messi will miss the Clasico against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on November 21. The news that nobody associated with Barcelona wanted to hear has been confirmed — the reality is that the Argentine crack has not quite progressed as expected.
Last Wednesday SPORT published that his recovery was running late — the medical team had suggested seen of eight eight weeks out of action — but that he would still be ready for the trip to the Spanish capital. Only just, though.
Unfortunately, things have slowed up and the player still doesn’t have sufficient strength in his knee to begin running continuously. That’s to say, he doesn’t have enough time to be back in shape for the Madrid match.
In any case, it’s not being treated as a debacle at the club. From the first day everyone at Barcelona — from the president, to the coaches to the players — were prepared for the day this news potentially was confirmed. In fact, all the quotes from Messi’s team-mates have focused on the fact they want him to recover properly, not to recover for Madrid. They want him back, but only when he’s 100 percent ready.
The player himself has said publicly he’s not obsessed with playing against Madrid, even though he would like to, instead leaving things in his doctors’ hands. Nobody wants to relive the images from the Champions League quarter-final of three years ago, when Leo came on when he wasn’t fit — albeit to help the team through.
Nothing will be decided in the Clasico. It’s not a final. It’s not a matter of life and death. It’s just three points. Prestigious, yes, and a rivalry, yes, but nothing more. And both Leo and the club know that, which is why they are not considering it a catastrophe that he won’t make the date.
Now Messi is working with two Argentines who he has maximum confidence in: the physiotherapist Luis Garcia and the masseuse Marcelo D’Andrea. They are the men that called Tata Martino to confirm that Messi would not be fit for the games against Brazil and Colombia. His absence from the Argentina squad was the first sign that things weren’t progressing quickly.
It should be remembered that the injury — ligament damage in his left knee — is a very delicate one. Leo has learned the lesson from his previous injuries and will not return until he is totally recovered this time. The good news is at this stage of the season there are no life or death games.
With 19 days to go until the Clasico, Leo has not even began to run yet. When he begins that phase of his recovery, it will be another three of four weeks until he’s back on the pitch. Therefore, with the Clasico return date discarded, there will be less pressure on his return.
Let’s not talk about a step back or a relapse, though, but just about things taking more time. He already spent almost a week longer on crutches than initially anticipated because he wasn’t totally confident his knee could support him and now he’s lost another week in his race to return.
In total, two weeks. Nothing worrying, though, because the most important thing is that Leo recovers well.