A season filled with serious injuries for Barcelona took another dark turn during Wednesday’s Copa del Rey defeat against Athletic Bilbao when left-back Alejandro Balde was forced to leave early in the first half with a hamstring injury in his right leg.
The injury looked serious from the moment Balde first went down, and his reaction and mood throughout his examination and his departure from the pitch showed a young man very worried about his situation.
Reports since Wednesday say Balde is facing a dilemma similar to the one Marc-André ter Stegen and Marcos Alonso faced with their respective back injuries: go the conservative treatment route in hopes of returning to action quicker or undergoing surgery to fix the problem permanently and spending a longer period on the sideline.
Ter Stegen and Alonso both opted for surgery, and if Balde goes the same route he is expected to miss the rest of the season but be fully healthy by the start of the 2024-25 campaign.
Balde’s situation is also similar to Ansu Fati, who tore his meniscus for the first time in 2020 and decided to go the conservative route before eventually undergoing surgery. But the recovery from the operation didn’t go to plan, leading to a second surgery and over a year on the shelf which has had a deep impact on the career of a player who was once considered the successor to Lionel Messi.
Balde has been around Ansu as well as Ter Stegen and Alonso throughout that entire time and has seen the good and the bad that comes with the surgery decision, which makes it a serious dilemma as the 20-year-old considers his options.
Xavi Hernández was asked about the situation in a press conference on Friday, and the coach left the decision entirely up to the player even if it means losing Balde for the rest of the season. He also says Balde’s situation is different to Ansu Fati’s and that the medical staff has already recommended the ideal course of action.
“We will support him as we have done with all the players with this type of decision about whether to operate or not. Advise him in the best possible way and support him. He will decide what is best for him. According to the doctors it is different [to Ansu]. The doctors have recommended one thing to him. But in the end, it is his career and it is his decision.”
Balde’s decision should come relatively soon, and the hope is that whatever path the youngster chooses to take will lead to a successful recovery and a return to full fitness for a player with immense potential.