Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez are a lot like the legendary Madrid trio of Di Stéfano, Paco Gento and Ferenc Puskas. Gento and Puskas were capable of winning any match by themselves, but Di Stefano’s legendary skills made him bigger than both combined. Same with Leo: When he’s out, it’s a serious case of worry for Barcelona.
Messi’s insistent desire to play every match might have caused what he is going through now. Reports say that if the No.10 doesn’t fully recover in three weeks, he might require surgery on the groin area of his right leg, sidelining him out for at least three months.
The possibility of losing Messi for such a significant amount of time would be a massive headache but, hopefully, things won’t get that bad.
La Pulga’s issue is his almost stupid wish to play every minute of every game in every competition for both club and country. Argentina rested him against Venezuela after alarm bells started ringing in his previous international match but, against Atletico only days later, his body just could not take the strain any longer.
There’s no two ways around it: Messi is now injured for at least three weeks but, unless he returns to the team more gradually than he has in previous occasions, his long-term health would be unnecessarily risk once again. An easy choice, if you ask me.
In his absence, Suárez and Neymar have to take charge of the attack. As was seen last season and in the convincing 0-5 away victory against Sporting Gijón, Neymar can perform stupendously in Leo’s absence. The issue with Neymar is him holding on to the ball a bit too long at times. Sometimes, he makes the mistake of not knowing when to keep the ball, and when to allow the team’s move to flow. Hopefully, for the good of the team, the No.11 takes charge and becomes the main frontline creator – with El Pistolero Suárez chipping in with his dynamic movement and lethal goalscoring ability.
Apart from these two, the biggest glimmer of hope is Andrés Iniesta. If Leo existed as a player, but without his blistering pace, he would be Iniesta’s secret twin -- the biggest compliments you can pay to both of them.
Fortunately for Culés, Iniesta is in superb form at the moment, ripping apart opponents more than ever, at an age when players start to wane out. To his credit, the Spanish international is blooming even more, playing both the creator and controller role perfectly, and with ghostly ease. Iniesta is magic, There are no words to describe him.
Arda Turan and Paco Alcácer also need to step up their games in Messi’s absence to keep the club rolling on a good trot, and not lose too many points in Leo’s absence. Although nobody wanted the No.10 to pick another injury, his forced time away from the picth may actually be good news both Turan and Alcacer, two players who will have another chance to prove their worth.
Obviously, there is a certain degree of anxiety in the Catalan capital after seeing the world’s best player leaving the pitch due to injury: The one who orchestrates attacks, pulls the strings, rips apart oppositions with his out of this world passes and dribbles rivals for fun won’t be making an appearance in the near future.
There will be tension and anxiety in his absence, as it is a known fact, Barcelona without Messi is not the same Barcelona as it is with him. There are only two things that can be hoped at this time: That the rest of the team can take charge and perform, as one would expect, and that the No.10 can recover fully and take the necessary amount of time to make a full recovery.