Relieved Messi eyes quick return
Lionel Messi has said that he is hoping to face Real Betis on Sunday after escaping a major injury scare last night. Messi left Barcelona's goalless UEFA Champions League draw with Benfica on a cart in the 84th minute after colliding with visiting goalkeeper Artur Moraes.
The sight of their star player being taken off the pitch silenced the Barça fans, but there was relief soon after with the club confirming the injury was no worse than a bruised left knee. Messi worked in the gym as his team-mates trained outside today, and said he still had a chance of playing at the weekend.
"I feel fine, but I don't know yet if I will be available for Sunday," he said at a promotional event at the Camp Nou today, reported on the team's official website and in AS. "I'll see. I am grateful for all the messages of support I have received."
Messi said he was hurt when he struck Moraes, but then tried to score with a curling shot before falling to the ground and clutching his knee. "I thought it was the last shot I was going to have for a long time," he said. "So I decided to gamble and hit it."
Admitting he feared the worst, he added: "The truth is I did not think about anything because all I could feel was the pain. But in a moment I thought the worst. When it was shown it was not a severe injury I was calmer."
Messi's involvement in last night's game has been a major talking point in light of the injury he suffered as the match was essentially meaningless to Tito Vilanova's men, already assured of top spot in Group G. However, Messi said he never let the fear of injury affect his approach to the game, and that he preferred to stay sharp by playing.
"Something similar could have happened in training or anywhere else," he said. "Whenever you walk onto a pitch there is a risk."
The 25-year-old went into the game one goal shy of Gerd Muller's record of 85 in a calendar year and there were suggestions the Argentina forward had only played in order to chase the milestone. However, Messi said the record was not as important to him as was being made out.
"As I have always said, for me the record is not an obsession," he said. "My colleagues have said they will help me and with them, I am not worried. It would be great, and hopefully if I do it, it will stand for a long time like Muller's, but it's not something I worry about. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't matter. But we are close so we will try."
Messi also downplayed the potential detrimental affect an injury to him could have on Barcelona. "They would continue to play with or without me," he said. "There are plenty of other players."