Barcelona: Grimacing in pain after he nearly scored his record-equalling 85th goal of the year, Lionel Messi rolled around on the ground clutching his left knee and thought he might be headed for an extended injury layoff.
Instead, his collision with Benfica goalkeeper Artur late in Wednesday’s Champions League match may only rule the Barcelona forward out for one match.
“I sincerely thought it was the last ball I would be touching for a long time because of the pain,” Messi said Thursday. “I tried to go ahead and shoot but I didn’t have the strength.”
Messi collided with Artur in the 85th minute of the 0-0 draw while trying to score a goal that would have put him even with Gerd Mueller with the most goals scored in a calendar year. Barcelona fans at the Camp Nou then watched silently as he was taken off on a stretcher.
The 25-year-old Argentina international is trying to break Mueller’s 40-year-old scoring record. He has scored 84 goals in 2012 and has four games to catch Mueller, who scored 85 for Bayern Munich and West Germany in 1972. Messi said he could miss Sunday’s league match at Real Betis, but had originally thought his career was in jeopardy.
“I feel much better than yesterday. I don’t know if I will be there on Sunday,” he said. “It depends on how (my left knee) progresses. “I didn’t think anything when it happened. I just believed from the pain that I would be sidelined for a long time,” Messi said.
“At that moment I thought the worst. Later, when the doctor examined me in the changing room and ruled out a serious injury, it was a relief.”
Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova sent on Messi with about 30 minutes to play even though Barcelona entered the game with first place in their group guaranteed.