Leo Messi faces his fourth week injured with enthusiasm and optimism, with the challenge of being fit to play for Luis Enrique on November 21 against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. There are still 25 days to go and the feelings are good. Clearly they could be even better, but in the case Messi's injury - a partial tear of the medial collateral knee ligament in the left leg - the priority, above all, is to avoid a step backwards in the recovery process.
Today, the deadlines are marked to reach the Clasico smoothly. At least since the club quietly mentioned he could be fit a week later, but that would not be an impediment to playing against Real Madrid, as they talked about seven to eight weeks for his return to the pitch, with the game against Real Madrid coming in the eighth week.
The most important thing is the player keeps working with the objective to be ready to face Madrid. From Tuesday his recovery was strengthened, with the presence of a physiotherapist who has his confidence, Luis Garcia, along with massage maker and right-hand man Marcelo D'Andrea, who landed on Sunday in Barcelona.
Until now Messi has been working with the club physiotherapist Roger Girones. Under his supervision he started the second phase of his recovery, where he began to give mobility to his knee with electrotherapy, cold machines and manual exercise, taking into account not wanting to lose muscle mass.
The aim of the second phase is that the player can start running smoothly. And here it is the full capacity to integrate the two new arrivals lies. In principle, it is expected that by the end of this week or beginning of next at the latest, Leo Messi starts running again. At first, short and soft runs, before increasing the pace to continuous medium intensity runs. This phase is the most important of the rehabilitation and the prelude to his return to training. A hard phase, as the player will need to accumulate workload at different levels, both aerobic and anaerobic.
Messi, according to people close to him, is certain he wants to make it back for the Clasico. The medical department think he'll be ready and Luis Enrique would obviously welcome the player with open arms.
What is very clear is that he will not be forced. It will be no debacle if he is not able to play against Real Madrid. The main objective is to recover well and avoid any relapse, given that the season is very long and in the Clasico there are, after all, only three points at stake.
Not being called up by Tata Martino is a relief for Messi, who can continue to work on his recovery without any pressure from the national team.
In fact, the Albiceleste know the state of the player first-hand as Luis Garcia is the national team physio.
There was no way he would be ready to face Brazil on November 12 and the game five days later against Colombia was also a big risk. Tata followed the instructions of the doctors and ruled out the Argentine crack very reluctantly - because they are playing the World Cup qualifiers to reach Russia 2018 and have started with just one point from a possible six.
Messi said himself he wasn't going to rush his comeback and would only play when the doctors said he could. That's all well and good - they believe he will be ready to face Real Madrid. And so cules around the world can breath a little easier with every day that passes, as it's one day less before the world's best player can return to the pitch.