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Reports in the Spanish press claim Lionel Messi has no chance of returning to action earlier than expected due to the severity of his injury.
The Barcelona striker has been ruled out for the next six to eight weeks with a hamstring tear that he sustained against Real Betis.
The Argentina international striker had initially targeted a return to the Catalans’ ranks in the first week of January, with the home game against Elche on January 5 mooted as a possible comeback date.
But there were reports that his powers of recovery might see the multiple Ballon d’Or winner reappear in La Liga before the turn of the year.
However, Spanish daily Mundo Deportivo claim that the tear in Messi’s hamstring is six centimetres long, meaning that he will require the full rehabilitation period before returning to action.
The South American has been struggling with injuries for a while and a few pundits suggested that his recent dip in form was linked with a less than perfect bill of health.
But the Nou Camp outfit are still sitting pretty at the top of the La Liga standings, with 37 points from 13 games played and just two dropped points all season.
They are three points clear of Ateltico Madrid, with Real Madrid another three back but seemingly beginning to find some form.
The injury problems are mounting up for coach Tata Martino, however, and he will want to make sure that his charges stay at or near the top of the table before his talisman returns in 2014.