Rivaldo has counselled Barcelona to start taking care of Lionel Messi – even if it means that the Argentine star needs to spend some time on the bench.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who was voted FIFA’s The Best Male Player of 2018-19 last month, has had an injury-hit start to the latest campaign and faces something of a fight to be fit to face Sevilla on Sunday.
The 32-year-old was hurried back from a problem to face Inter in a 2-1 Champions League win in midweek, having already missed spells this season due to foot and adductor problems.
Rivaldo, himself a former darling of Camp Nou and an individual who has hit the very pinnacle of the sport, has suggested that discretion may be the better form of valour for Ernesto Valverde’s side, despite the pressure they currently find themselves under to climb the standings.
“Messi's importance in this win against Inter only reinforces my view that he has to be more protected in this phase of his career,” Rivaldo told Betfair.
“He must be allowed to fully recover so that he can stop feeling any pain and lose any fear of fighting for each ball. He must be allowed to recover his joy on the pitch, as he is very important for Barcelona, especially when on his best form.
“Barcelona face Sevilla on Sunday in La Liga and of course Messi wants to play. But it could be time to reflect with the medical staff and check if playing too much time after coming back from an injury could be risky for his recovery.
“Sometimes, it might be better to just do some recovery training.”
Barca find themselves fourth in La Liga, two points behind leaders Real Madrid after seven games, and for the former Brazil international, it is far too early to be getting edgy about losing their domestic crown.
“It is an important match against Sevilla but there is a lot of the league season to play yet, so perhaps protecting the player could reap rewards later, as it would allow Messi to have some more days to recover from his midweek efforts,” he said.
Messi has yet to find the target this season in his four appearances but does boast two assists in just 210 minutes of pitch time.