Latest injury a turning point moment for Messi

…”There’s fitness and conditioning, of course, but there are other things that might seem on the periphery, like sleeping in the right position, having the same pillow when you are away and training in different places. Do you really know how to clean your hands? Without leaving the bits between your fingers? If you do things like that properly, you will get ill a little bit less. They’re tiny things but if you clump them together it makes a big difference.”



“We were disappointed with Messi’s fragility and the repetitive nature of his muscle strains,” he remarked. “After that Celtic match we constructed a holistic plan for his future performance — to manage the number of meals he had, what type of food he should eat, how many hours of sleep he had to get, what type of stretching he had to do every day. It was a plan to keep him healthy and to minimize injuries. We invested a great deal of time and money in it.”

After 17 club or international trophies, four Ballon d’Or titles and two goals in winning Champions League finals — plus any number of scoring records — it can be said that the plan hatched by Ingla, fellow vice president Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain (the latter two now in charge at Manchester City) has worked relatively well.

From the end of the Guardiola reign, perhaps before, it’s quite easy to trace the stream of minor negative changes that have given rise to conditions in which Messi is left in major physical and minor psychological distress.

During Barcelona’s exceptional years, one key element in Messi’s robust nature was Juanjo Brau. He’d been at the club for a couple of years before he became Messi’s shadow in summer 2008 but his dedicated treatment worked. Everywhere Messi went, Brau went. Domestic club trips, Barca’s Champions League work around the continent, Messi’s holidays, his trips to and from Argentina on international duty, tournaments — everywhere.

Put bluntly, Brau was supposed to make sure that Messi’s physical work was calibrated to take into account how much stress he was under, how far he’d travelled, how much game time he’d had, the conditions of pitches he played on, whether he’d played at altitude, how he was eating, whether he was getting enough rest — as Ingla said, it was holistic. The bulk of his work was ensuring that Messi’s “recuperation” after his extraordinary bursts of explosive energy found an equilibrium.

Brau’s work had to dovetail with that of Lorenzo Buenaventura, Guardiola’s personally appointed fitness coach (he’s now working with Bayern Munich).

At that time, Barcelona had a physio named Emili Ricart — the man who, not single-handedly but nonetheless comprehensively, put Andres Iniesta back together after a year of horrible muscle injuries in time to let him win Spain the 2010 World Cup. Trusted by the squad, Ricart would supplement and complement Brau’s work — holistic meant holistic. The club had every angle under lock and key.

Today, Buenaventura is in Germany, Ricard was booted out by the current regime last summer and Messi and Brau have reached a stage where their (sporting) marriage needs counselling.

Last season Barcelona went through the mill. Tito Vilanova took over, got ill and went for treatment, Jordi Roura took over, Vilanova came back, got ill again and then this past summer, Tata Martino took over. Standards slipped. Training wasn’t as consistent, physical preparation wasn’t sufficiently intense — the absence of the hawkish, ultra-disciplined Guardiola was augmented significantly by the unfair factor of Vilanova’s fight against the impact of cancer.

A run-of-the-mill muscle strain incurred on a poor pitch in Paris last spring was unnecessarily — and I’d say reprehensibly — worsened when Messi was brought off the bench despite being patently not fully recovered so that PSG wouldn’t eliminate Barcelona from the Champions League quarter-final (at the time, the Ligue 1 giants led 3-2 on aggregate at the Camp Nou with 28 minutes left).

How Messi was then used at San Mames against Athletic Bilbao is simply beyond me. He suffered an injury in Paris, was overused in matches thereafter, was a passenger during the 4-0 defeat in Munich and then injured himself again at Atletico Madrid.

So as the marginal declines aggregate, it’s worth accepting that since Spring 2012, Messi has increasingly been carrying the burden of a declining team rather than garnishing a great team with his brilliance.

This is a minor but nevertheless significant difference.

Source ESPN


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