Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has said that Lionel Messi is irreplaceable as the European champions face up to life without their talsiman for up to eight weeks.
Messi suffered a tear in the medial collateral ligament of his left knee during Saturday’s 2-1 win over Las Palmas and is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
“A player like Leo is irreplaceable,” Luis Enrique said on Monday.
“In pre-season none of Leo, Neymar or (Luis) Suarez played, but our idea of how to play didn’t change. It is a challenge for us to be without the best player in the world, but it also provides an incentive for us.”
Luis Enrique is hopeful the 28-year-old will be fit for Barça’s first meeting with Real Madrid this season on 21 November at the Santiago Bernabeu.
“Leo came in yesterday for the medical check-up and he looked good, he was in high spirits,” added the coach. “Time is in his favour.”
Midfielder Ivan Rakitic was keen to accentuate the positives, in particular how Messi’s absence could act as a motivational factor for his team-mates.
“Messi’s injury affects us a lot. It hurts not to have the best player in the world, but it also serves as motivation to win the games for him,” said the Croatian international. “We hope he returns as soon as possible.”
Fellow Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets told Canal Plus: “We know that if Leo complains then something’s wrong.
“He’s the best player in the world, our best player. We’re having bad luck with injuries and more so when we can’t register or sign any replacements.”
Meanwhile, former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was saddened to hear the news of Messi’s injury.
“I hope he will return as soon as possible,” said Guardiola. “I did not like [hearing] the news about his injury at all. I know he is one of those players who always wants to play. It is a pity that he cannot play for the next seven to eight weeks.”