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Thu Apr 24 18:37:01 SAST 2014

Messi needs to be preserved

Gareth Cotterell | 10 December, 2012 07:560 Comments

The current Barcelona side is regarded by many as the greatest side to have ever played the game. But would they be great without Lionel Messi?

Messi made headlines over the past week but not because he broke another record or added to his already astounding goal tally. Newspapers all over the globe were wailing with anguish because the world's best player picked up an injury.

With 'the Flea' in danger of missing the La Liga match against Real Betis, journalists were immediately asking how Barcelona would cope.

Despite needing another goal to match Gerd Mueller’s record, Messi was unusually benched for the Champions League match against Benfica. Barca were shoddy on the night and were forced to introduce Messi so that he could transfer some spark to his team. Then, to the horror of his fans and his teammates, he injured his knee.

The injury immediately spread gloom around the stadium as if a moment of mourning was being observed. A collective sigh of relief, however, was felt the next morning when it was announced that the knock was not as serious as previously thought.

But surely a team consisting of Andres Iniesta, Xavi, David Villa and a bus load of other world-class players is not reliant on Messi?

Unfortunately they are. Messi provides the finishing touch that separates great teams from good teams. As impressive as Barcelona are, it is hard to imagine them winning as many titles or being regarded amongst the pantheon of the very best if they didn't have the small Argentine leading the line.

Messi is a once-in-a-generation type player. His skill sometimes defies belief and even leaves the opposition's fans mesmerised. He has the ability to unlock the tightest defence and singlehandedly win matches.

Most of Barca's players have played a leading role in Spain's all-conquering side in recent years. They all possess sublime skills and they are even stronger collectively. When Messi is added to their ranks they are able to achieve a greatness that was previously unimaginable.

Barcelona have a rare gem in their possession and they know it. They now need to do more to protect it.

Messi plays in almost every single Barcelona match and his coaches have repeatedly spoken about how he hates not being on the pitch. While I can't see him sulking like Cristiano Ronaldo or Mario Balotelli might, it is time for Messi to sit amongst the reserves and seethe a little.

The Catalans have started their season well and should be aiming to win another treble. They will however need Messi to inspire them to glory. For this reason they need to reduce the risk of him picking up a serious injury.

A well-rested Messi will translate into an even more fearsome Barcelona. Imagine the devastation he can unleash upon hapless defences if he is fresh and free of any strain.

Barcelona fans will salivate at the thought while opposing defenders can only shudder. 

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