Fans express disappointment over Messi’s absence

Fans express disappointment over Messi’s absence
  • PublishedOctober 27, 2018

Barcelona will miss Lionel Messi on Sunday – his goals, his dribbles, his presence as much as anything – but the angst will be gone with the help of three weeks’ rest and a sling.

For the fans that came to see him, not the match or the teams, but him, the disappointment will be harder to shake.

This will be the first Clasico without either Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo since December 2007, when Julio Baptista’s winner was the difference in a 1-0 win for Real Madrid.

There have been 35 games between them since. Messi has lit up more than a few – the hat-trick in 2007, the two free-kicks, and that run, leaving five Madrid players for dead, Sergio Ramos twice.

In a stall on Carrer d’Aristides Maillol, lining the western edge of Camp Nou, a vendor stands under a collection of red and yellow scarves, behind him pinned up shirts with Messi, 10, on their backs.

“We will sell Messi shirts here even 20 years after he retires,” he says. “Nothing will change on Sunday.” What does a Clasico mean without Messi? “No hay”. “There isn’t one”.

Which isn’t true of course. It was 1902 when Barcelona first appeared in Madrid for the semi-final of the Copa Coronacion. There have been 199 of them without Messi and there will be many more after he has gone.

But in this current era, this fixture, at Camp Nou, is about him more than anyone else. Everyone wants to witness Messi once, still more on the biggest stage.

When he stayed down clutching his broken right arm against Sevilla last weekend, it was a blow for Barca but a blow too for the thousands that thought they were eight days away.

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