SAN JUAN (ARGENTINA): Lionel Messi, recovering from a bad knock to his back 10 days before Argentina’s opening Copa America Centenario match, was feeling less pain on Saturday, team doctor Daniel Martinez said.
“Messi is better, with less pain than last night,” Martinez told reporters after Messi suffered bruising to his lower back and rib cage during Friday’s 1-0 friendly win over Honduras.
But Martinez added that he could not say how long Messi’s recove r y wo u l d take. “We’ve got to take it day-by-day... It’s an area where it hurts to move normally, (like) get up, turn and cough,” he was quoted as saying in the Buenos Aires sports daily Ole.
A first-half goal from in-form Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain settled a low-key encounter in San Juan, with two-time world champions Argentina dominating possession and shots.
But the result was overshadowed by an alarming incident involving Messi midway through the second half that forced the Barcelona superstar to leave the field clutching his lower back in pain.
The five-time FIFA World Player of the Year appeared to be hurt after a heavy aerial collision with an opposing player in the 59th minute.
Messi grimaced and rubbed his lower back after the challenge and required treatment on the field for several minutes before he was swiftly substituted by Ever Banega.
Messi was taken to hospital to assess the nature of the injury, the Argentina Football Association said in a statement. “Messi suffered trauma to his lower back on the left side and ribcage in the same area. He is being examined in a local hospital for a more thorough diagnosis,” the statement said.
He had suffered a “nasty blow to the lower back,” Argentina coach Gerardo Martino said.
“It’s too early for me to say anything more at this stage,” Martino told a post-match news conference.
However, any injury to Messi will be a huge blow to Argentina as they prepare for their opening Copa America Centenario match against Chile in California on June 6.
Messi is crucial to Argentina’s hopes of winning a first major tournament for 23 years, and was player of the tournament at last year’s Copa America and the 2014 World Cup.
Messi is also due to return to Spain this weekend to attend a hearing in his tax fraud trial, before then jetting off to California to reunite with the squad.