Diego Milito might prefer Lionel Messi to take no risks with his groin injury this week and to miss FC Barcelona's enthralling Matchday 5 meeting with FC Internazionale Milano, noting that his Argentina team-mate is "the best, most decisive player in the world".
The Inter striker knows Messi well from their time together with Argentina, and is well aware of the damage he can do in the UEFA Champions League. Barça's main man picked up a minor groin strain in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Athletic Club Bilbao and his presence in what could be a decisive Group F meeting will remain in doubt until kick-off. Milito wishes Messi a quick recovery but knows that his participation or absence could be a deciding factor.
"Without a doubt Messi is the best, most decisive player in the world," argued the Inter striker, who has scored nine goals in thirteen matches in all competitions this season. "Leo can win a game on his own at any moment because he's extraordinary. Playing with him every weekend must be a joy. I know because I've had the pleasure of training and playing with him for our country. I know him very well and know exactly what he's capable of."
Setting aside the importance of the meeting, and the fact that Inter were beaten 3-0 the last time the two sides played in the UEFA Champions League at Camp Nou, Milito knows exactly why Messi looked so downcast and upset when he came off the pitch in Bilbao on Saturday night. Messi has already had two UEFA Champions League campaigns wrecked by similar injuries, in 2005/06 and 2007/08, missing Barça lifting the trophy at the Stade de France in the former year after their 2-1 defeat of Arsenal FC. "Leo has had to complete the transition from boy to man very quickly and so much has happened to him already – particularly bad injuries," said the 30-year-old. "At Barça they protect him very intelligently but Leo has also overcome his difficulties in a very mature way."
Whether or not Barça's No10 makes the showdown, the balance of power in Group F – where leaders Inter are separated from fourth-placed FC Dynamo Kyiv by only two points – will change dramatically if either José Mourinho's or Josep Guardiola's team can carve out a win. Milito may be the key man. "I'm lucky enough to have done well against Barça during my time with Real Zaragoza," he recalled. "They are an interesting opponent who play good football but they always allow chances for their opponents. A team which attacks as much as Barça do usually leave space at the back. I just hope that I do as well I normally do against them."
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