The Argentine playmaker took to the pitch at the Sánchez Pizjuán with very clear orders regarding the role he should play and movements he could make.
“He's had a few twinges but it's not worth risking him with the chance he could get a tear,” Ernesto Valverde said of Lionel Messi before Barcelona travelled south to face Sevilla. Valverde did not plan to introduce his star man with 35 minutes remaining. But with Barça losing 2-0, something had to change.
Messi limited by hamstring
Messi spent the ten minutes prior to his introduction warming up on the touchline, with particular attention to his right hamstring. He worked specifically to loosen up that area and was continuously testing it out with this hand.
As a result, the 30-year-old took to the pitch with two clear instructions: to avoid long sprints, and to avoid sudden changes of pace. It was without doubt a handicap for Messi. After all, so much of his game is based on electric acceleration.
He appeared to be very conscious of his limitations, of how to play and how far he could push himself. Messi did break in to the occasional sprint with the ball at his feet, but generally recycled possession quicker than normal.
Roma test fast approaching
Beyond his late goal that secured a draw for Barça, Valverde will be pleased that Messi appeared to end the match without any noticeable discomfort.
Barcelona welcome Roma to Camp Nou on Wednesday for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final, a game for which he will need to be closer to 100% fitness.