The Lead

It was, admittedly, an extraordinary moment. As I watched Celtic move closer to an improbable berth in the last 16 of the Champions League last night against Spartak, my Twitter feed was suddenly overwhelmed with news of Messi’s injury late in Barca’s game against Benfica. It was also clear this panic had little to do with the Gerd Mueller record; the frantic tweets were written with something closer to despair than disappointment.

Football without Messi. Was it worth watching? The sun rises and sets, and Messi starts for Barca. What if the sun didn’t rise tomorrow? Messi was injured, and we were all going to perish in flames.

Then, after a little while, Gary Lineker said his doctors thought it wasn’t that serious. Thankfully too, very few journalists today took the obvious route in blaming Tito Vilanova for putting him on in the last half hour. Regardless of the “meaninglessness” of the fixture, Messi is not a player normally in need of careful preservation. He doesn’t over-train, and he doesn’t run around pointlessly in order to earn that most empty of plaudits: a “good work rate.” This is largely the reason the Argentinian striker has started every game for Barcelona over the last two years. A half hour run about was not the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Still, it would be easy to accuse Messi and Vilanova of hubris, but it really is the case that players tend not to pay close attention to statistical records. When Kay Murray interviewed Kaka Tuesday night to tell him he was now the top-scoring Brazilian in the Champions League, he wasn’t even aware he was in the running. Perhaps it’s out of fear it could jinx their already superb run of form, or because it truly doesn’t matter when compared to the glory of silverware.

The prime directive for footballers is the desire to play, even if for only thirty minutes in a dead rubber.


Ferguson says a win over City on Sunday would be quite an accomplishment.

Avram Grant confirms his return to Chelsea was nothing more than a rumour.

Mikel extends contract with Chelsea until 2017.

O’Hara deactivates Twitter account over comments life was easier when he was poor.


De Rossi continues to struggle at Roma.

Stevan Jovetic not eager to leave Fiorentina.

La Liga

Messi likely to miss action this weekend due to injury.

Monchi to step down as Sevilla’s sporting director.


Robben hit with another injury.

Fortuna Dusseldorf sign Japanese midfielder Genki Omae.

Bit and Bobs

Noah Davis argues why Kaka would not benefit MLS.

AVB says eliminating Europa League a mistake.

Finalists for the African Player of the Year Award include Drobga, Yaya and Song.