Lionel Messi suffered an adductor injury on September 25 during the match in which Barcelona defeated Villarreal by 2-1. Messi made his first start of the season after sustaining a calf injury but unfortunately was only able to play the first half of the match and was replaced by French winger Ousmane Dembele. Javi Calleja, the Villarreal coach, believes that Barcelona is not as superior without Messi as his team was unable to defend better at the beginning, further accepting he claims that when Messi is on the field he makes a difference. However, Calleja was happy with his team's performance.
Javi Calleja claimed, "Without Messi, they are not as superior, that is evident, but we know how to stop them. We were unable to do more damage or defend better at the beginning. Messi played the first half. The team worked to ensure he was not decisive. When he's on the pitch he makes a difference, although it's true he had some discomfort. We are hurt by the defeat, but happy with our job. I was amazed. He did everything right. He has huge quality and he is not weighed down by the responsibility. For a football lover he is a joy to watch.”
Antoine Griezmann and Arthur Melo netted the ball for Barcelona while Santi Cazorla scored the only goal for Villarreal. With 12 minutes remaining, Luis Suarez was replaced by Ansu Fati and went close to sealing the three points but Villarreal appealed for a penalty which was later turned down following a VAR review. Barcelona is at the fourth place in the tournament standings with ten points and will now face Getafe CF at Coliseum Alfonso Perez on September 28.
On September 23, Lionel Messi won the best FIFA player of the year award for a record sixth time for defeating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo. He won the Spanish La Liga title with Barcelona last season as well as the European golden boot having scored 54 goals in 58 games in all competitions. However, he did not enjoy success with the national team as they lost in the Copa America semi-finals to rivals Brazil. Messi's win at the La Scala Opera house in Milan also marks a return to the dominance of the Argentine and Ronaldo.
(With inputs from agencies)