Injured Messi off Barca’s squad for Malaga visit

Lionel Messi will miss Barcelona’s Spanish league game at Malaga

on Sunday while he recovers from a muscle injury in his left

leg.

Barcelona said on Saturday that even though Messi’s ”progress

is satisfactory,” coach Gerard Martino left the Argentina forward

out of his squad as a ”precaution.”

”We are optimistic, but it’s risky to play him again three days

later with the league just under way,” said Martino. ”I think

Messi is fine and I’m not worried about what has happened or what’s

being said. He prepared well during the summer holidays. What

happened the other day was a coincidence.”

Messi bruised a muscle in his left thigh during the first half

of Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the

Spanish Super Cup. With Messi substituted at halftime, new signing

Neymar went on and scored the equalizer for his first goal with his

new club. The return leg is set for this Wednesday at Camp Nou.

Martino said that Messi’s absence Sunday doesn’t guarantee that

Neymar will get his first start for Barcelona. Neymar has been

recovering from a case of anemia which the Brazil striker developed

after having surgery on his tonsils this summer.

”Neymar is getting better each day. He has more training

sessions under his belt and knows the squad and club better,” said

Martino. ”We have to ease him forward little by little so that

everything goes well. Just because Messi isn’t there doesn’t mean

that Neymar will take the helm. We have many good players to

challenge Neymar for a spot in the starting 11. He can play in any

game, but nothing has changed because he scored against

Atletico.”

Martino also chimed in on rival Real Madrid’s reported bid for

Tottenham winger Gareth Bale, which could surpass its record deal

for Cristiano Ronaldo of >80 million ($131 million) in 2009.

Spanish media reports place Madrid’s offer for Bale between

>77-85 million.

”He looks like a good player,” said Martino, while adding:

”The price is a lack of respect considering how the world is right

now.”

In June, Barcelona paid Santos (euro) 57 million ($74 million)

to acquire the 21-year-old Neymar.

Martino, who guided Newell’s Old Boys to the Argentine league

title last season, took over Barcelona last month after former

coach Tito Vilanova stepped down to fight a recurrent throat

tumor.