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Barcelona stands firm in Messi Olympic row

SoccerNews in La Liga 25 Jul 2008

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Barcelona reaffirmed Thursday that it is not obligated to release Lionel Messi so that the Argentine striker can represent his national team at the Olympics next month as demanded by world football governing body FIFA.

In a statement posted on its website, the Spanish club said “current FIFA regulations do not oblige clubs to release their players.”

“Moreover, the club has reiterated its proposal to come to a consensus, which was rejected at the time by the Argentinian Football Association,” it added.

Spanish media have reported that the proposed compromise would see the 21-year-old playmaker take part in one of Barcelona's early Champions League matches and before joining the Argentine squad in Beijing.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Wednesday that clubs must release their eligible Under-23 players for the Olympic football tournament.

Messi was the star of Barcelona's 6-0 exhibition win over Scottish side Hibernian on Thursday night in Edinburgh.

He scored in the 11th minute after cutting to the front and shooting past keeper Andrew McNeil and sent the ball into the back of the net again in the 38th minute but the referee ruled he was offside.

Before the match Barcelona captain Carles Puyol said he hoped Messi will be playing for the team in its Champions League qualifying round next month and not travel with Argentina to the Beijing Olympics.

“He is a very important player for us, one of the best in the world,” Puyol was quoted as saying on the club's website. “I hope that this will be sorted out and that he will remain with us.”

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