Barca loses magic Messi

Out 2 months with torn lig­a­ment

SundayXtra - - SOCCER - By Joseph Wil­son

BARCELONA, Spain — Barcelona faces two long months with­out Lionel Messi af­ter its star for­ward tore a lig­a­ment in his left knee dur­ing the de­fend­ing cham­pion’s Span­ish league match against Las Pal­mas Satur­day.

The Cata­lan club con­firmed the in­jury af­ter Messi had tests at a nearby Barcelona hos­pi­tal. Barcelona said it ex­pects Messi to be out “seven to eight weeks.”

Messi went down af­ter col­lid­ing with Las Pal­mas de­fender Pe­dro Bi­gas in the third minute.

He writhed on the ground in front of the Las Pal­mas goal be­fore play was stopped. Fol­low­ing med­i­cal at­ten­tion, the Ar­gentina star went back on, but two min­utes later asked to be re­placed in the eighth af­ter care­fully trot­ting around and test­ing his leg with a pair of passes.

Messi walked off by him­self as Mu­nir El Had­dadi re­placed the four­time world player of the year in front of a sub­dued Camp Nou crowd of al­most 75,000.

Span­ish tele­vi­sion showed im­ages of Messi leav­ing the hos­pi­tal with a limp as he got into a car.

His coach and team­mates showed their con­cern af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle at Barcelona’s 2-1 vic­tory over newly pro­moted Las Pal­mas.

“I’m sad any­time a player gets in­jured, and if it is Messi even more so con­sid­er­ing the weight he has on the team,” Barcelona coach Luis En­rique said. “When­ever there is an in­jury, the im­por­tant thing is the team. We are a team and will pull through this to­gether.”

Messi could miss the first “cla­sico” of the sea­son against Real Madrid Nov. 21.

He will def­i­nitely watch as Barcelona hosts Bayer Lev­erkusen in the Cham­pi­ons League group stage on Tues­day. Messi be­came the first player to score five goals in a sin­gle Cham­pi­ons League match in 2012 to fuel Barcelona’s 7-1 romp over Lev­erkusen.

He is also likely to be side­lined when Ar­gentina plays World Cup qual­i­fiers against Ecuador Oct. 8 and Paraguay Oct. 13.

Known as a durable player un­afraid of tough tack­lers, Messi was lim­ited by a per­sis­tent se­ries of ham­string in­juries dur­ing 2013, but re­turned to his best form last sea­son and scored 58 goals.

The 28-year- old Messi led Barcelona to a sweep of the Cham­pi­ons League, Span­ish league and Copa del Rey ti­tles last cam­paign.

He is the all-time high­est scorer for Barcelona, and also has scored more goals in the Span­ish league than any­one else.

“He is the best player in the world, so of course we will no­tice his ab­sence,” Barcelona midfielder Ser­gio Bus­quets said.

Barcelona had al­ready lost at­tack­ing midfielder Ra­fina to a lig­a­ment tear for an ex­pected six months, mean­ing Luis Suarez and Ney­mar will have to carry the scor­ing load for Barcelona un­til Messi re­turns. The club can field Arda Tu­ran and fel­low new ar­rival Aleix Vi­dal af­ter the ban on its new play­ers ex­pires in Jan­uary.

Luis En­rique re­jected the idea his team would have to “sur­vive” with­out Messi.

“This is a test and an ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion for this team,” the coach said. “We have to ac­cept the chal­lenge.”

MANU FER­NAN­DEZ / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi lies on the pitch dur­ing a match against Las Pal­mas at the Camp Nou sta­dium in Barcelona Satur­day.

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