Barcelona captain Carles Puyol said Thursday Lionel Messi was “very important” for the club, and expressed the hope the Argentine striker will not join his national team at the Beijing Olympics.
Messi has repeatedly voiced his desire to help Argentina defend its Olympic title but the Catalan club has opposed the move as he is needed for early Champions League matches.
The Olympic tournament begins on August 6 with the final on August 23, but the first leg of the third Champions League preliminary round is scheduled for August 12-13.
FIFA said on Wednesday that clubs must release players aged under 23 for the Olympic tournament, a statement rejected by Barcelona, which said it plans to retain the 21-year-old Messi next month.
“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.”
Messi “is well, and he is training well, at a fast pace. He is physically at a high level,” said the club’s assistant trainer, Tito Vilanova.
The winger is currently with the Barcelona squad at its pre-season training camp in Scotland, which lasts until Saturday.
The team face Scottish Premier League side Hibernian in a friendly later Thursday and Dundee United on Saturday.
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