Barcelona could take Argentine playmaker Lionel Messi on tour to Italy and the United States later this week even if FIFA orders the Spanish club to release him for the Olympic Games, a newspaper reported Monday.
FIFA are expected to issue a ruling on Tuesday to settle a dispute between the Argentine Football Federation, who have called on the 21-year-old for the Olympics, and Barcelona who want to keep the player for early Champions League matches in August.
Barcelona-based sports daily El Mundo Deportivo reported Monday that the world football governing body will likely side with the Argentines but the Catalan club will then take the dispute to the sport's highest appeal body, the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
In the meantime Barcelona will take Messi on upcoming tours of Italy and the United States, it added.
Barcelona heads to Italy on Wednesday where they will face Fiorentina in a friendly before heading to the United States two days later.
The squad will face Mexican side Chivas de Guadalajara in Chicago un Sunday and the New York Red Bulls three days later in New York.
Messi was the star of the two friendlies which Barcelona played during their pre-season training camp last week in Scotland.
He contributed one goal during their 6-0 win over Scottish side Hibs on Thursday and hit a hat-trick in a 5-1 win over Dundee United two days later.
FIFA have insisted that the release of under-23 players is mandatory but that clubs can refuse to release over-age players.
The Olympic football tournament takes place from August 6-23 but Barcelona have a Champions League qualifier on either August 12 or 13.
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