Messi returns to full training with Barcelona

By Sports Desk August 21, 2019

Lionel Messi returned to full training with Barcelona on Wednesday as he nears a comeback from a calf injury.

The 32-year-old missed the whole of Barca's pre-season programme and was not part of their squad for the 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao on the opening day of the LaLiga season.

Messi – whose last competitive outing was for Argentina in the Copa America third-place play-off victory over Chile, a match in which he was controversially sent off – has been doing solo exercises to build up his fitness and sat out the LaLiga champions' first training session on Wednesday but was pictured with the rest of his team-mates later in the day.

Barca head coach Ernesto Valverde may now consider the Argentina international for selection against Real Betis on Sunday, with Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez already ruled out.

Dembele will miss the next five weeks with a hamstring injury and Suarez is out for an indefinite period after injuring his right calf in the shock defeat to Athletic.

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    Giuseppe Rossi has hailed Santi Cazorla as an "inspiration" as the former Villarreal and Manchester United striker targets a return to elite-level football.

    Rossi, 32, is back training with his old club Villarreal six years after leaving Spain to join Serie A side Fiorentina.

    The 30-cap Italy international has been a free agent since he left Genoa at the end of 2017-18, having escaped a ban after testing positive for dorzolamide - a banned substance commonly found in eye drops that Rossi and his legal team insisted was consumed accidentally.

    Since then, he has spent time training with United and recently returned to Villarreal to try to build up match fitness, with a view to playing at the highest level again.

    Rossi's career has been blighted by serious knee injuries, but he enjoyed his most productive spell with Villarreal, scoring 82 times to become the club's all-time leading goalscorer.

    Cazorla has enjoyed a renaissance since returning to Villarreal last year after an Achilles infection left him fearing he may never walk again, and Rossi hopes to emulate his former team-mate's comeback.

    "When we were playing years ago, we never thought we would have these situations in our careers. But it happens, it's all part of the sport, right?" Rossi told Omnisport, courtesy of LaLiga.

    "It's how you come back, it's the fight that you put into the recovery, wanting to get back to your levels of before. I've been down, and I came back up; I've been down again, and I've always come back up.

    "It's the same thing with Santi. He's back to playing at these high levels, playing with the national team also, so he's definitely an inspiration to me, also to all the young players and the players that are on this team.

    "It's crazy, the parallels that we have, so of course it's always great to see him back, to see him playing at this level."

    Like Cazorla, Rossi is determined not to allow his football career to be halted early by injuries, even though he has not played a competitive match since May last year.

    "It's a big psychological thing when you get injured," he said. "Are you able to be patient, are you able to learn, are you able to put in the work and the time to get back to certain playing styles and certain levels?

    "Sometimes, it's hard. Sometimes, people give up. We've seen that in the past, not only in football but in other sports. But that's not the case with me. It's something I'll never do. I love this game too much, I work too hard, I've sacrificed too much. I cannot give up on this sport."

    Rossi has been made to feel at home since coming back to Villarreal, saying: "It feels great. It's a place where I grew up as a player; it's a place where I grew up as a man.

    "I had five beautiful years with them, we accomplished a lot together, and it's just great being back here, seeing people and just having fun on the pitch again.

    "Each day, I'm getting more match fit, getting used to the pace. I'm just trying to get fit, trying to show that I'm ready to play at whatever level, and just continue to have fun. I'm still young, I'm still hungry. I've done a lot in this sport and I'm very happy, but I'm still hungry, I still want more. I still want to show that I can come back and play at these levels."

    It remains to be seen whether Rossi will get the chance to play in LaLiga once more, but he still considers Spain's top flight to be the pinnacle.

    "For me, LaLiga is the essence of football," he added. "It's fun watching the technical ability of a player. It's very attacking, there's a lot more space, therefore there's much more excitement in games.

    "Four, five years, ago, they thought LaLiga was only a two-team league. Today, you have six, seven teams all mixed up. It's exciting."

  • Lionel Messi straight back into Argentina line-up against Brazil after ban Lionel Messi straight back into Argentina line-up against Brazil after ban

    Lionel Messi was restored to Argentina's starting XI to face Brazil upon his return from a three-month suspension.

    Messi has not played for Argentina since being sent off in the Copa America third-place play-off against Chile in July.

    It was the Barcelona superstar's post-match outburst after the semi-final defeat to Brazil that resulted in his suspension, however, as he accused CONMEBOL of corruption and favouring Tite's Copa America hosts.

    That earned him a lengthy ban and a $50,000 fine, with Messi missing games against Chile, Mexico, Germany and Ecuador.

    But having been included in the squad once again, Messi was straight back into the starting XI for the contest in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

    Joining him in attack was Lautaro Martinez – passed fit after sustaining a head injury with Inter at the weekend – while Sergio Aguero, who like Messi has not featured for Argentina since the Copa America, was on the bench.

    There were few surprises in the Brazil starting XI, with Roberto Firmino, Willian and Gabriel Jesus forming the attack in the absence of the injured Neymar.

    Real Madrid winger Rodrygo Goes could earn his first cap from the bench.

     

  • Messi proves he is the best every day, says Barcelona team-mate Suarez Messi proves he is the best every day, says Barcelona team-mate Suarez

    Lionel Messi proves he is the best player in the world day after day at Barcelona and "everyone knows" it to be true, says Luis Suarez.

    Uruguayan striker Suarez last month celebrated the fifth anniversary of his debut for the Camp Nou giants, and since his switch from Liverpool to LaLiga he has forged a devastating partnership with Messi.

    This season is proving no different, with the duo contributing 14 LaLiga goals between them despite Messi having missed early games of the season with injury.

    The debate as to who is the greatest player in the world between Messi and former Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo, now at Juventus, has rumbled on for over a decade.

    But for Suarez, there is simply nobody better than Argentinian Messi.

    "Messi has helped me a lot in my personal growth. We had an affinity from the beginning. From coexistence came friendship, and the moments I spent with him also helped on the pitch," Suarez told Barcelona's official website.

    "Everyone knows that he is the best in the world. He has proven it and continues to prove it day after day.

    "He has shown me his companionship a thousand times. He helped me when I was fighting for the Golden Boot. The other day, at Eibar, he gave me a goal."

    Despite heading into the international break at the top of LaLiga, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde has found himself under pressure having seen his side drop 11 points from 12 matches this term.

    Barca have a tricky period over the coming month, with Champions League fixtures against Borussia Dortmund and Inter, a trip to Atletico Madrid and the rescheduled Clasico with Madrid on December 18.

    Suarez, though, is relishing what is to come.

    He said: "A very nice month is ahead. We like those, both as footballers and also people. There will be a Clasico too.

    "You have to be mentally and physically prepared. Maybe we won't win every game or have it easy, but we hope to do our best with the support of the fans.

    "We have not had a simple league start. We gave away points that in other years we hadn't lost, but we know that other teams are also competing well."

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