Lionel Messi Feared Career Could be in Jeopardy Following Knee Injury

The minute Lionel Messi felt a surge of pain in his left knee, the soccer superstar feared his career might be over.

But as if it was an act of the soccer gods, Messi says that his injured knee feels much better after colliding with the goalkeeper during a Champions League match against Benfica.

The Barcelona forward says he may miss Sunday's league match at Real Betis, but had originally thought his career might be in jeopardy.

Messi says "I sincerely thought it was the last ball I would be touching for a long time because of the pain. I tried to go ahead and shoot, but I didn't have the strength."

Messi was taken off the field on a cart because of bone bruise to his left knee in Barcelona's 0-0 tie with Benfica in a Champions League game Wednesday night, while defending champion Chelsea failed to advance to the final 16 in the tournament.

Messi is trying to equal a 40-year-old scoring record held by Gerd Muller. He has scored 84 goals in 2012 and has four games to catch Mueller, who scored 85.

With Barcelona already assured of advancing to the second round, some questioned whether the decision to enter Messi as a reserve in the 58th minute was more about breaking records than winning the match.

However Coach Tito Vilanova was quick to address these rumblings.

"Had we been worried just about the record we would have played Messi right from the beginning," Vilanova said.

"He's not focused on breaking the record that everyone is talking about," Vilanova told ESPN. "if that were the case he would have played against Alaves (in the Copa del Rey last week) and the full 90 minutes against Benfica."

"We talked about the possibility of him playing for 30 minutes. He's a player that likes to play," the Barca boss added.

A three-time FIFA Player of the Year, Messi has 84 goals for Barcelona and Argentina this year, one shy of Gerd Mueller's 40-year-old record for most goals in a calendar year for club and country.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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