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Messi, the injury and the new role


Messi has returned to Barcelona with a sore groin injury that was proving unbearable. This was his return to the Argentina squad, on the back of his announcement to desert them after the Copa America, and he's left half-way through. There was pain, and suspicion around Barça. He himself said, in an undoubtedly sympathetic way, that how could he resign "after all the commotion I've caused," referring to his resignation, which happily has been corrected. He played a decisive role against Uruguay, but ended up in so much pain that he has had to pull out of the match against Venezuela. In Barcelona, of course, there is concern.

Lionel Messi in action for Argentina.
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Lionel Messi in action for Argentina.MARCOS BRINDICCIREUTERS

Messi rarely missing

The groin injury is the bane of the footballer. An increasing pain which then can only be treated through rest or, in extreme cases, surgery. But in football who wants to rest? No one is happy missing a match. It can make some unreasonable. Often they speak about Cristiano's fever, a desire to play every game in the search of accumulating more goals, but Messi doesn't miss a minute either. Comparing the two since their careers collided in Spain seven years ago, it is Messi who has had more pitch time than Cristiano. And remember when Luis Enrique 'stole' a half in Anoeta?

Cristiano and Messi: a constant comparison.
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Cristiano and Messi: a constant comparison.JESUS AGUILERADIARIO AS

Change in role

Messi's niggles also explain the change to his game. Taking up calmer areas of the pitch he is no longer making those bursting counters at breakneck speed, nor clocking up so many goals. Now he manages the team from the control room. He has more than enough quality to still make the difference, with this economical use of his efforts, in two out of every three games, and that's speaking conservatively. The problem comes if it was to get worse. He may have to be convinced to give up some minutes when a game is already decided. This has not been achieved with Cristiano thus far. Will it be resolved with him first? It's just another thing to compare them with.