Lionel Messi is the world's greatest footballer. A phenomenon, magical and almost inhuman in the manner in which he plays the game.
However, over the last year or so his physical issues have robbed Barcelona, and indeed, the fans, the chance to see the little Maestro at his best, week in, week out.
His injury problems have become a concern. Last season, he was surprisingly given the nod to start a crucial away tie at Bayern Munich in the Champions League after recently suffering a hamstring injury.
What became abundantly clear as soon as the game began, was that the 'Little Flea' was nowhere near match fit. He struggled to even run, let alone perform to anywhere near his true level.
Tito Villanova did not sub him off, and Barcelona were crushed 4-0. He had a cameo role in the next fixture, in a 2-2 draw at Athletic Bilbao, though it was an incredible cameo appearance, with him netting an outstanding equalising goal.
Messi was then left on the pitch for the entire return leg against Bayern. Villanova had realised his mistake. Messi's lack of fitness was far from the only reason why they were so resoundingly beaten by the German giants, but it certainly didn't help a Barcelona side who so often look to the Argentine to lift them from dark situations.
Messi's failure to be subbed or managed correctly throughout that period was costly. However what was more costly was the mismanagement of him earlier on in the campaign. He played week in, week out, no matter the opposition, no matter the scoreline, and for the entire 90 minutes, too.
His lack of fitness and more notable injuries towards the end of that season was a direct cause of this. It is well known Messi loves to play every minute he can, but ultimately, as ex-Barcelona striker Gary Lineker has said on his twitter account, Messi "needs saving from himself".
Just like any player that has ever played the game, Messi, as superhuman as he may appear to be, needs resting, and needs to be slowly eased in after an injury. He came off the bench against Osasuna on Saturday, which is all well and good, however in a week where Barcelona play against AC Milan in the San Siro, and against Real Madrid on the weekend, he must be managed correctly after his most recent injury.
Otherwise, he could face another spell on the sidelines, not only damaging Barcelona, but football itself, too.
For this reason, Messi should be on the bench against AC Milan, and if Barcelona are leading comfortably, then he ought not to come on, either.
It takes some courage not to bring him on, or start him, even. The world's best player, who hates watching the game when he could be playing in it, and such a tempting option to bring on as it is clear what a difference he can and so often does make.
Villanova wasn't normally brave enough to resist. Tata Martino however, seems to have the mental strength to do what is right. He has rested Messi this season already, as well as rotating the likes of Xavi, and Iniesta, who himself has had question marks raised over his own fitness.
It may be disappointing when the little magician doesn't step out onto the football pitch, but with bigger fixtures certainly to come over the course of the season, and the little matter of a World Cup in Brazil to play in as well, (albeit if Barcelona don't necessarily need to prioritise the latter tournament), Messi needs to be managed correctly. Starting by being benched for the midweek tie in the San Siro.
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