Lionel Messi scored twice on Wednesday as Barcelona beat second-division Girona 3-1 in a preseason friendly.
Messi helped set up Philippe Coutinho, back from his loan at Bayern Munich, for the first goal after 21 minutes.
The Argentine scored his first after 45 minutes, spinning on the edge of the penalty area and drilling a shot in off the base of the far post. He scored his second, with a deflected shot, after 50 minutes.
He went off after an hour.
Messi only returned to training at the start of last week after saying he wanted to leave the club.
Messi started Barcelona’s first friendly on Saturday, playing 45 minutes without scoring in a 3-1 victory over third-tier Gimnastica Tarragona.
Earlier on Wednesday, La Liga president Javier Tebas said he was pleased Messi had stayed at Barcelona.
“Messi is important for our competition,” said Tebas, at an event to promote the Liga sticker collection. “He is a player who was born in our competition… and hopefully he will finish his career in our league.”
Barcelona used 20 players in Wednesday’s game at the club’s training centre but neither Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez nor Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal appeared.
Manager Ronald Koeman said after the game he had talked to Suarez and acknowledged Barcelona might not be able to sell him.
“If finally he does not find a team and ends up staying, he will be one more player for the squad,” said Koeman.
Barcelona are due to start their league campaign on September 26 or 27 against Villarreal.
Barcelona’s new signing Miralem Pjanic said at his unveiling on Tuesday he could never imagine Lionel Messi playing for another club.
Messi claimed earlier this month he had been forced to stay at Barca after he and the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu disagreed over a clause in his contract.
Manchester City were favourites to capitalise and it remains possible Messi leaves next summer, when his contract expires and he can go for free.
“I could never see Messi playing in another shirt,” said Pjanic, whose move from Juventus was confirmed in June. “For me it was impossible and I always thought everything would eventually work out.
“My hope was to play with him. I met Messi two or three days ago but I haven’t yet been able to train or play with him. I have been lucky enough to play with players like Cristiano Ronaldo and (Francesco) Totti but I want to enjoy playing with this whole team.
“All 25 of us will be important and I believe in the spirit of the group.”
Pjanic’s transfer from Juve to Barcelona was part of a financial operation involving Arthur Melo going the other way, allowing both clubs to boost their profit figures for the year.
Barca said they paid 60 million euros ($67.4m) plus a potential five million euros in bonuses for the Bosnian playmaker while Juventus would pay 72 million euros plus 10 million in variables for Arthur.
“Leaving Juve was difficult,” said Pjanic. “I have left an incredible club but a footballer always wants to grow and have new challenges. After nine years in Italy I needed new goals and Barca was my dream.”
Sitting alongside Pjanic was Barcelona’s new sporting director Ramon Planes, who was asked about the future of Luis Suarez.
Suarez was not included in Ronald Koeman’s squad on Saturday for a friendly against Gimnastic Tarragona, with the club keen for the Uruguayan to leave.
“Luis has been an important player for Barca in recent years and for this he deserves the utmost respect,” said Planes.
“Since the end of the season we have been fully involved in a process of change, with the coach and our ideas.
“But we must respect, above all, the players and their contracts. Until October 5, when the market is closed, everything can happen.”
Suarez has been linked with Juventus but reportedly wants Barcelona to pay him the value of the remaining one year on his contract.
Arturo Vidal is also expected to leave, with the midfielder nearing a move to Inter Milan. “Negotiations are well advanced,” said Planes.
Lionel Messi may have had to stay put at Barcelona but the Argentine legend did succeed in joining one new club this year — the one reserved for sporting billionaires, according to Forbes magazine.
The Argentine striker’s career earnings of over one billion dollars (840 million euros) places the six-time Ballon d’Or winner in a group of mega-wealthy sports figures containing just Tiger Woods, Floyd Mayweather and his great rival on the pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Forbes said that in 2020 Messi was the best paid footballer in the world with an income of $126 million from his Barca salary ($92 million for the 2020/2021 season) and $34 million from sponsors and other sources.
The 33-year-old knocked Juventus forward Ronaldo ($117 million) off the top of the football salary chart with Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar ($96 million) in third place.
Forbes’ top 10 earning players made a combined $570 million this season, a jump of 11 percent despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic to European leagues and the global economy.
Michael Jordan is also in the billionaire’s club but the basketball legend’s fortune has largely come after retirement through his longstanding contract with Nike and acquisition of NBA franchise Charlotte Hornets.
Messi remains at Barcelona this season after conceding defeat in his attempt to leave without triggering his 700-million euro release.
Lionel Messi started and played 45 minutes in Barcelona’s first pre-season friendly on Saturday as Ronald Koeman showed no hesitation in reintegrating the Argentinian.
Barca beat third tier side Gimnastic Tarragona 3-1, with Ousmane Dembele opening the scoring on his first appearance since November.
Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho, who was also returning after his loan spell at Bayern Munich, then each scored penalties, either side of Javier Bonilla pulling one back for the visitors.
But Messi’s return at the Johan Cruyff Stadium was perhaps the biggest plus for Koeman, who was taking charge of his first game since being appointed coach last month.
Messi also led the team out wearing the armband after Barcelona had confirmed earlier on Saturday that he will continue as captain this season.
Both club and player appear keen to put on a united front, at least for now, ahead of their return to La Liga later this month.
After condemning the board last week and admitting he had been forced to stay, Messi arrived early on Monday for his return to pre-season training and worked on the squad’s days off in a bid to catch up.
Koeman, meanwhile, said last month he only wanted players who wanted to be at Barcelona but he was full of praise for Messi on Friday, calling him “the best”, and backed that up in his first team selection.
Messi played 45 minutes as part of Koeman’s plan to field two different line-ups in each half.
Yet his starting front three of Messi, Griezmann and Dembele looked suspiciously like a first-choice attack, with Dembele making his first appearance since he tore his hamstring nine months ago.
Koeman also handed starts to youngsters Carles Alena and Pedri in midfield while Jordi Alba, Clement Lenglet, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto formed a familiar back four, ahead of Neto, who is standing in for the injured Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal.
New signing Francisco Trincao, Coutinho, Frenkie de Jong and 19-year-old American international Konrad de la Fuente were among those to come on for the second half.
There was no place in the squad for either Luis Suarez or Arturo Vidal, who have both been told they can leave.
Barcelona will not play their first La Liga game against Villarreal until round three at the end of the month, having been granted extra time off due to their involvement in last season’s Champions League.
Reigning champions Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are also sitting out the first weekend.
But seven games are scheduled this Saturday and Sunday, the first of them finishing goalless between Eibar and Celta Vigo.
Still without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic, Spain’s top flight got off to a slow start at Ipurua, where Eibar finished with 10 men after Pape Diop was sent off in the 87th minute.
Granada then picked up where they left off last season by defeating Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at Los Carmenes while newly-promoted Cadiz, back in La Liga for the first time in 14 years, lost 2-0 at home to Osasuna.
Lionel Messi arrived at Barcelona’s training ground on Monday as he begins to reintegrate with the team following his failed attempt to leave the club this summer.
Messi was seen driving into the Ciutat Esportiva in Sant Joan Despi at just after 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) on Monday, where he is expected to take part in training for the first time under new coach Ronald Koeman.
Jorge Messi, the father and agent of Lionel Messi, published a response to La Liga on Friday, insisting the Barcelona striker’s 700-million-euro release clause no longer applies.
Messi senior claims the release clause is removed once the player takes up the option in his contract to leave for free, which Messi’s side believe he did when he notified Barca by burofax on August 25.
In the letter addressed to La Liga president Javier Tevas, Jorge Messi claims to quote a clause in Messi’s contract that says: “This release clause will not apply when the player’s decision to unilaterally rescind the contract takes effect from the end of the 2019-2020 season.”
La Liga had backed up Barcelona’s position last weekend by announcing that Messi’s release clause remains valid.
And the Spanish league reacted almost immediately by reiterating their stance and saying Jorge Messi’s interpretation of the contract was “out of context” and “far removed” from its wording.
Jorge Messi’s bullish statement indicates his son remains committed to leaving Barca this summer, despite suggestions the 33-year-old’s stance could be softening.
However, there has been no overt declaration that Messi will still depart, perhaps offering some hope to Barcelona supporters.
The validity of the release clause in Messi’s contract is important because its existence means Messi could be liable to pay the amount himself if he joined another club but lost a subsequent legal battle in court.
Barcelona believe the option in the player’s contract that allowed him to leave for free expired on June 10.
Messi’s side insist the deadline was the end of the season, which was extended into August due to the pandemic.
Notably, Jorge Messi did not mention a specific date when quoting that clause in his statement.
“We do not know which contract you have analysed and what is the basis that leads you to conclude there was an applicable release clause if the player decided to unilaterally end his contract at the end of the 19-20 season,” he wrote.
He adds that it was an “obvious error on your part”.
Messi’s father had held talks with Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Thursday but both sides reiterated their arguments and no agreement was reached.
Jorge Messi, father and agent of Lionel Messi, appeared to concede his son could remain at Barcelona this season, according to footage broadcast by Spanish media on Thursday.
Messi senior seemingly replied “yes” when asked by a reporter if they had considered the possibility of staying at the club for another season and then leaving for free next year, in a video recorded by Spanish TV station Cuatro.
The images were captured as Jorge Messi pulled into a parking garage reportedly for another day of meetings with the family’s lawyers.
He had arrived in Barcelona on Wednesday, landing at the private terminal in El Prat airport on a flight from the Argentine city of Rosario.
Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi boycotted Barcelona’s first pre-season training session on Monday, as he tries to force his way out of the club he joined as a 13-year-old.
Messi also failed to attend a coronavirus test at Barcelona’s training ground on Sunday.
Messi’s father was followed throughout the city by reporters and TV crews on Wednesday and told reporters it would be “difficult” for his son to stay at Barcelona.
According to local reports, club directors met with Messi and his advisors for more than two hours on Wednesday, but neither party was willing to alter their stance. Further negotiations are expected to be held in due course between Barcelona and Messi’s entourage, which also includes his brother Rodrigo.
Barcelona insist their captain remains under contract until June 2021 and will only depart if his 700-million-euro ($833 million) release clause is activated, a stance that has been backed up by La Liga, who say that release clause still applies.
But Messi and his lawyers argue he is allowed to go for free this summer according to another clause in his contract, which they claim was triggered on August 25 when a burofax stating Messi’s intention to leave arrived at Camp Nou.
Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City have expressed an interest in signing him.
Veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has signed a one-year contract extension with AC Milan, the Italian giants announced on Monday.
The former Swedish international, who turns 39 in October, rejoined Milan in January and will stay at the San Siro until the end of June 2021.
“Today (Monday), Zlatan Ibrahimovic rejoined his teammates and coach Stefano Pioli at Milanello Sports Center, where he took part in his first training session of the season,” the club said in a statement.
According to Italian media reports, Ibrahimovic has agreed to a seven-million-euro ($8.35-million) annual salary with Milan.
He helped Pioli’s side bounce back from a poor first half of last season, scoring 11 goals in 20 games in all competitions to help fire the seven-time European champions to Europa League qualification.
Ibrahimovic said at the weekend that he “wanted to help the club return to where they belong”.
“For six months, we have done great things but we have not won anything. We must continue and do the same,” he said in a video.
The 38-year-old previously played for the Rossoneri from 2010-2012, scoring 56 goals and winning the 2011 Serie A title under Massimiliano Allegri.
It had been widely expected that ‘Ibra’ would sign a new deal and he will take the number 11 shirt, having played as Milan’s number 21 last term.
He had returned from American MLS outfit Los Angeles Galaxy on a six-month contract with an optional extra year.
Milan finished last season with a 12-match unbeaten streak in Serie A to grab a sixth-place finish, although they still fell short of returning to the Champions League for the first time since 2014.
Ibrahimovic has also played for Juventus and Inter Milan in Italy during his illustrious career and starred for Paris Saint-Germain in France and Manchester United in the Premier League.
He won four Ligue 1 titles with PSG during a four-year spell in which he became the club’s record goalscorer, a mantle since taken by Edinson Cavani.
‘Ibra’ has also lifted the La Liga trophy with Barcelona in 2010, three league titles with Inter and two Eredivisie crowns while at Ajax.
Barcelona will play Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou on October 25, after the La Liga fixtures were announced on Monday.
Barca and Madrid will then face each other at the Santiago Bernabeu on April 11, with Zinedine Zidane’s side looking to defend the Spanish league title they won in July.
Whether Lionel Messi features in either match remains to be seen, with the Argentinian currently on strike and refusing to train as he tries to force his way out of the club this summer.
Barcelona are scheduled to start at home to Elche and Madrid at home to Getafe but both games will be rearranged to allow more rest for teams involved in last season’s European competitions, which only ended in August.
Atletico Madrid’s opener at home to Sevilla will therefore also be postponed.
Instead, Real Madrid are likely to begin at Real Sociedad on the weekend of September 20 before Barcelona are expected to start at home to Villarreal a week later.
All matches will continue to be staged behind closed doors and according to strict medical regulations aimed at reducing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first games of the new season will be played on the weekend of September 12, eight weeks after the 2019/20 campaign ended on July 19.
The first indication of how determined Lionel Messi is to leave Barcelona and how ugly this dispute could become will be gauged at the club’s training ground on Sunday.
Barca’s greatest ever player is due at the Ciutat Esportiva on Sunday morning for coronavirus tests, which must be taken and passed if he is to join Ronald Koeman’s first pre-season session on Monday.
Messi’s attendance or absence will be his first public demonstration since the burofax that stated his intention to leave for free arrived in the offices of Camp Nou on Tuesday evening and shocked the world of football.
Barcelona’s newly-appointed sporting director Ramon Planes said on Wednesday the expectation was Messi would be present on Sunday for testing and then training on Monday as usual.
But while Messi was initially inclined to comply and avoid escalating tensions further, his lawyers have since advised him to stay away, Catalunya Radio were reporting on Saturday.
Taking part in the team’s pre-season programme ahead of La Liga starting on September 12 could damage his legal case if his departure ends up being settled in court.
Barcelona insist a clause included in Messi’s contract that allowed him to go for free this summer had to be activated by June 10 and is therefore no longer valid.
The only way Messi will be allowed to depart, the club argue, is through his release clause, set at 700 million euros ($833 million) until his contract expires on June 30, 2021.
But Messi’s side believes the clause refers not to a specific date but to 10 days after the end of the season, which this year was extended into August due to the pandemic, with the Champions League final only played last weekend.
If the Argentinian refuses to show up for tests on Sunday, and by extension pre-season training on Monday, it will suggest there is no going back.
The assumption will be that Messi is prepared to do whatever it takes to quit the club he joined as a 13-year-old boy, and where most expected him to continue all the way through to retirement.
– Barca standing firm, for now –
Instead, bitterness and resentment could accompany the unthinkable process of Messi being punished by Barcelona for absence, in the form of fines or a reduction in salary.
If he returns, those supporters who stormed Camp Nou in protest this week may feel an inkling of hope.
Cajoled by team-mates — although many of them expect to leave too — Messi could be persuaded to stay.
Mundo Deportivo, the Barcelona daily with close links to the board, wrote on Saturday how the club is adamant the Argentinian will remain.
“The more the days go by, the firmer the board and president Josep Maria Bartomeu are in not moving from their position,” it read. “Which is not to sell and, if possible, to renew the contract of Messi.”
Yet every stance is arguably now a negotiating ploy and Messi’s return on Sunday might only offer false hope to the fans.
Bartomeu made it known through the Spanish press on Thursday that he would resign if Messi said publicly that he was the problem and agreed to change his mind.
But Messi has instead asked for a meeting, not to negotiate, but to begin facilitating an amicable and dignified departure.
“Messi’s decision to leave Barca irreversible,” read Diario Sport on Saturday.
Manchester City remain favourites to sign the 33-year-old, whose basic salary alone amounts to around 60 million euros.
If Barcelona and Messi decide to avoid a lengthy legal process, a compromise selling price of around 100 million euros could be within reach for City, while eliminating their less wealthy rivals.
Messi has reportedly spoken to City coach Pep Guardiola already but others remain in the running, including Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan and Juventus.
The Italian sides would likely require a much-reduced price to afford any deal. But Juve might view the chance to combine Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as a historic sporting and commercial opportunity too good to pass up.