'Secret injury' behind Messi's dip in form, claims Spanish source
Lionel Messi has been carrying a serious muscle injury that has hampered his performance in recent weeks, according to a report in Spain.
Barcelona's epic 38-match unbeaten run was ended by Real Madrid a few weeks ago, and since then the reigning treble champions have suffered a string of poor results - culminating in Wednesday night's Champions League exit at the hands of Atletico Madrid.
Messi's woes have been at the heart of that: the Argentine has apparently gone five matches without a goal or an assist for the first time in his Barcelona career, and the only Barcelona player who covered less ground than Messi on Wednesday night was goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
Spain's Cadena COPE radio station claims that there is an underlying reason: Messi has been carrying a significant injury for several weeks.
The radio station's 'El Partido de las Doce' programme claims that Messi has been making regular trips to see a specialist in Sacile, Italy, where he has been seeing Dr Giuliano Poser for a "kinesiological" treatment.
Messi apparently travelled to Sacile with Pep Costa, one of the Barcelona coaching staff. The treatment is said to have gone well, but further sessions will be needed before the problems fully disappear.
Players often play through injuries - particularly when, as is the case with Messi, they are indispensable to the team. The bit of this report that has us scratching our heads is the description of these problems as "serious"; if they were serious, then surely Barcelona's medical staff would know all about it, and wouldn't risk further damage to their key man?
There seems little reason to doubt the central fact that Messi may have headed to Sacile to see Poser, who has been his doctor and nutritionist for some time; but it seems a big leap to call this a serious secret injury. It smacks of a desperate attempt by Barcelona faithful to produce an excuse for their greatest player after he's suffered one of the most disappointing months of his career.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Neymar look dejectedReuters