When Pep Guardiola took over as FC Barcelona coach in the summer of 2008, he decided that Lionel Messi would be the leader of his new project. However, the young Argentine, then just a frail 21-year-old, was already looking injury-prone.
So Guardiola decided that Messi needed special attention. For starters, he would have to change his diet. More fish, more vegetables, less red meat and potatoes. He would also start taking a special set of vitamins prepared just for him. No more late nights, either: a good night’s sleep every night would enable him to recover from the stress placed on the body by playing every day.
Messi was also to be watched day and night by Barca physio Juanjo Brau. “The two have become inseparable,” Goal.com’s Ben Hayward says, “even sometimes seeing each other on their days off and traveling together when Messi plays for Argentina.” As part of his daily routine, Messi trains with Brau 45 minutes before each training session and 30 minutes after, mostly for stretching and relaxing his muscles.
Together, Guardiola and Brau have also taught Messi to become a more intelligent player, which is another part of the secret to his remaining mostly injury-free over the last four seasons. As a central striker, Messi is instructed to stay upfield and conserve his energy for short, effective bursts. He now actually covers less ground than most of his teammates, which is how he is able to play 60-plus games per season.