FOUR-time world player of the year Lionel Messi has suffered another leg injury - his third of the season - and this time, the Argentinian striker needs six to eight weeks to recover. That pretty much means he will not be back in action till the new year.
While Argentinians, Barcelona supporters and football neutrals might be agonising over the news, here are three reasons why Messi's long lay-off may not be such bad news after all:
1) For Barcelona: His absence could not have come at a better time. He will only miss matches against Granada, Athletic Bilbao, Villarreal and Getafe in La Liga, games the league leaders should not have any trouble winning, even without his services. Likewise, in the Copa Del Rey, lower league side Cartagena will hardly pose a threat.
The Catalans will, however, have to do without their star player for two Champions League matches, against Ajax and Celtic.
Still, his absence coincides with a relatively easy period for the club, including the winter break.
2) For Argentina: With World Cup qualification already sealed, his services will not be required until June. A well-rested Messi, one who can display his trademark explosive runs with ease, will be the best thing Argentina fans can wish for in Brazil.
3) For the neutral football fan: There is no doubt that Messi has been out of sorts lately. He has gone over 300 minutes in the Spanish Primera Liga without scoring, leaving Cristiano Ronaldo to run riot atop the goal-scorers' chart.
With his muscle injury a constant problem this season, a lay-off seemed inevitable. It is perhaps better that his sit out now, so that he can recover in time to help both Barcelona and Argentina fight for honours.
Messi will light up any football tournament, and for the neutral fan, the Champions League or the World Cup just will not be the same without him.