MADRID- Lionel Messi thanked his fans for their support Tuesday and said it is “a pity” that he cannot join his Barcelona teammates on the pitch over the coming weeks while he recovers from a leg injury.
The Spanish giants announced Monday that the 26-year-old Argentina international will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks due to a muscle tear in his left hamstring muscle, his third leg injury this season.
Messi limped off after just 20 minutes of Barcelona’s 4-1 win over Real Betis on Sunday and was replaced by Andres Iniesta.
“As many of you know, over the next few weeks I will be working full-time on the recovery of this new injury, for me it is a pity not to play with my team right now,” Messi wrote on his Facebook page.
“Now what is most important is to recover well to help my teammates and give back all the support you have given to me in the best way I know how to do, playing football. Thank you for your messages!”
The injury means Barcelona will be without Messi for up to eight matches, including its last two Champions League group games against Ajax and Celtic.
It was the third time this season that he has been forced off with a muscular problem following hamstring and thigh injuries in his right leg.
Messi suffered a bruised thigh during the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Atletico Madrid which kept him out for a week.
He then suffered a small muscle tear in his right thigh during a La Liga match against Almeria on September 28 which sidelined him for three weeks.
Last week Messi said on Chinese social networking site Weibo he was still not fully fit. “Physically I am still not at 100 percent but I am confident that as I play more matches I will recover my rhythm,” he said.
Alves anoints Neymar
Barcelona attacker Neymar can fill the huge void left by the injured Lionel Messi, according to team-mate Dani Alves.
Alves believes Neymar, who joined the Catalan club from Santos in the off-season, is capable of stepping up in Messi’s absence.
Neymar has scored four goals since joining Barca, while Messi had netted eight in 11 league matches before his injury.
Elsewhere, Barcelona has it has extended to 2016 its agreement to donate 1.5 million euros a year to joint projects with Unicef and display the UN children’s aid fund’s logo on its jerseys.
The existing agreement was set to expire next year but the club’s directors approved a two-year extension at a board meeting on Monday, the Spanish league leaders said in a statement. “We are very satisfied with this alliance,” the club’s secretary, Toni Freixa, said in the statement.
Barcelona and Unicef joined forces in 2006 and its Argentine star, four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, is one of the organisation’s global goodwill ambassadors.