Barcelona fans suffered from renewed anxiety yesterday when their talismanic Argentine Lionel Messi had to come off the field at half time after pulling his hamstring again.

The Argentina superstar had apparently recovered, though mysteriously, from a left thigh strain he had picked up at training during Barcelona’s pre-season trip to Malaysia, to feature in the La Liga champion's opener against Levante, despite being out of action for almost a week prior to that match.

But it now appears Messi had never completely recovered from his previous injury as he was forced to be withdraw at half-time during their Spanish Super Cup fixture against Atletico Madrid.

Moreover, even when he was on the field, Messi had looked far from his majestic best, clearly struggling to have an impact in the match and often showing signs of discomfort before being brought off at half-time.

The fact that new coach Gerardo Martino decided to bring Messi off despite his team trailing Atletico by a solitary goal, thanks to their former striker David Villa, should ring some alarm bells in the hearts of Barca fans as Martino recently commented that he would never bring his superstar off in any match if it was evenly balanced.

Speaking after Barca's 7-0 rout of Levante, he told reporters: "We have talked to Messi from the beginning.

“The season is long, and this way he can rest if he does not play every minute in a couple of matches.

“We came to an agreement quickly. Agreeing on substitutions beforehand is a complicated matter. No one would ever take Messi out of a match if the teams are evenly matched. But it can be done in matches where we take a big lead. This way, he can preserve his fitness.”

Barcelona later said on their Twitter account that their superstar was removed due to some discomfort: "Messi has been replaced as a precaution following some discomfort in the back of the left thigh."

The superstar is set to undergo tests on Thursday which will reveal the full extent of his problem, with fans hoping it will not be a major injury and that he was indeed removed just as a precaution as their club had tweeted.

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