Initial appearances aside, Lionel Messi escaped serious injury Wednesday, suffering only a bone bruise in Barcelona’s Champions League game against Benfica.
In a sight that captured global attention, Messi was taken off on a stretcher but was back in the gym today while his teammates trained for a game Saturday against Real Betis.
“The truth is that I didn’t really think about anything because I was in so much pain,” Messi said (via Goal.com). “But I feared the worst. I thought that I might have to leave the ground. I feared the worst when the doctors looked at it and examined me, but once they said it wasn’t serious I felt a lot more relaxed.”
Messi, who had entered the game as a substitute in the 58th minute of the meaningless game, collided with goalkeeper Artur Moraes and fell in the 84th minute of the goalless draw. “When you go out onto any pitch there is always the risk something can happen to you,” Messi said. “[Pep] Guardiola used to play me in these games and as long as I can play and Tito allows me to play in these games, I will continue to do so.”
Ah, “as long … as Tito allows me to.” Coach Tito Vilanova defended his decision to send in Messi, who is one goal shy of Gerd Muller’s record of 85 in a calendar year, and denied that breaking the record, set in 1972, was a factor.
“We talked about the possibility of him playing for 30 minutes,” Vilanova told ESPN. “He’s a player that likes to play. He’s not focused on breaking the record that everyone is talking about. Iif that were the case, he would have played against Alaves [in the Copa del Rey last week] and the full 90 minutes against Benfica. Playing is part of his physical training.”
Messi denied that the record is “an obsession” but did say he was “going to go for it.”
“As I keep on saying, the record is not an obsession for me,” he told Goal. “I’ve heard my teammates saying they are going to help me beat the record, but all of the goals I’ve scored are down to their help. I’m not worried about it. It would be very nice to do it because I am so close. If I do it I hope I can hold onto the record for as long as, Muller but it doesn’t worry me.
“If I can do it, great, if I can’t it’s no big deal. But now I am so close I’m going to go for it.”