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Protective Barcelona keeps Messi on the bench during friendly across the globe

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates a goal against Santos during their Joan Gamper trophy soccer match in Barcelona

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates a goal against Santos during their Joan Gamper trophy soccer match at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona August 2, 2013. REUTERS/Albert Gea (SPAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)


Imagine that you were one of 40,000+ fans who turned up in Kuala Lumpur this weekend, ready to see Lionel Messi and his band of merry men take on a Malaysian XI. Then imagine all you saw was the sight of your hero, sitting on the bench, just chilling throughout the match. Sure, you’d probably be content with having seen other Barcelona stars running around the pitch, as it’s not as though it’s very often the team makes a trip to this country.

You’re a fan. You’d understand that La Liga is about to start, and even the small strain in Messi’s left thigh was enough to see him pulled from the lineup and regulated to the bench. After all, the Argentine is Barca’s most valuable commodity, and the club are not about to risk his fitness simply for the joy of far off fans wishing to see him in person. What is less comprehensible, however, is the fact that Barcelona will still make €3m from the match, despite Messi never setting foot on the pitch. Apparently, the contract arranging the friendly stipulated that Messi was required to travel to Malaysia for Barcelona to receive the full fee, but he was not required to actually participate in the game. At that point, you, the fan, might feel a bit hard done by.

Meanwhile, Messi is on his way to Rome, where he will meet up with the Argentinian national team. The Argentinians are scheduled to face Italy in a friendly to honor Pope Francis on Wednesday. No word yet on whether Messi will be permitted to take part in this auspicious event, or if the twinge in his thigh will see him sit out this one as well.