Leo Messi is back in Barcelona after playing two World Cup qualifying games -against Chile and Venezuela– with Argentina in the past week. Both him and fellow national team member Gabriel Milito arrived from America this morning, and Messi answered a couple of questions from the press at El Prat airport:

We are not worried about tiredness. There should be no problems, because now we will have two days to rest before the next match. We must focus on Saturday’s game, which is going to be a very difficult one. Villarreal’s has always been a tough ground for us to play in

Lionel took part in a light training session this afternoon, along with a notable number of Barça team-mates who had also joined their national squads during the international break. The only players missing the practice were Ronaldinho and Giovani, both of whom played with their countries yesterday and will return to Spain just in time for Barça’s weekend fixture. Coach Frank Rijkaard may be forced to start rotating the players as his team will be faced with a run of seven straight games in twenty days, starting with this Saturday’s league clash in Villarreal.

Leo Messi has been included in the list of 30 candidates to receive the 2007 FIFA World Player award.

Two other Argentinian footballers (Carlos Tevez and Juan Roman Riquelme) have also been shortlisted, while FC Barcelona is the club with the highest number of nominees (7): aside from Lionel, team-mates Deco, Eto’o, Henry, Marquez, Thuram and Ronaldinho also opt to succeed Fabio Cannavaro, who got the trophy in 2006.

Messi commented on the nomination and his chances of obtaining this honour:

I am only focused on doing well at my club and with Argentina’s national team. By doing so my chances of winning the award may increase; but in any case, this is not something that I am obsessed with

The award will be handed to the winner in a ceremony to be held in Zurich on December 17.

Leo Messi met with the press on a post-training press conference at the Camp Nou yesterday. These are some of the topics he discussed:

-Atlético Madrid, Barça’s next rivals on Sunday:

They are a very similar side to Barça. They play attacking football and have some great players up front

-The comparisons between himself and fellow Argentine “Kun” Agüero, the two of whom currently head the Spanish league’s top scorers table:

Both of us are on great form, but Agüero plays one way and I play another. The truth is he is hard to beat and very difficult to stop

-His own recent form and the praise he is receiving:

I’m only thinking about playing for the good of the team. All the praise doesn’t affect me either for good or for bad. When I’m playing I forget about all that what is happening outside and just try to do my best. It’s true that at first I had a few chances but didn’t have much luck with my shooting, and now I am getting much more luck

-Barcelona’s numerous injury problems:

It’s just a question of bad runs, it’s pure science and there is no need to start blaming anybody. All teams got through these things and now it is us, but I see no need to start making changes to our warm-up methods because we have always done the same thing and there haven’t always been as many injuries

Via | fcbarcelona.com

Worldwide organization of professional footballers FIFPro has announced the winners of its 2007 awards, intended to acknowledge the “best player” and “best eleven” of the previous season.

Brazilian midfielder Kaka, who was largely instrumental in AC Milan’s Champions League triumph, has been elected as the 2006/07 FIFPro World Player of the Year by the 57,500 voters. For his part, FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has been chosen in the FIFPro World XI alongside team-mates Carles Puyol and Ronaldinho, the winner of the individual award in the last two editions.

Miguel Angel Portugal, current technical director of Real Madrid, admitted in an interview yesterday that the club had the chance to get Lionel Messi shortly after the Argentinian player’s arrival in Europe.

“We had the chance to sign Messi when he was 14, and also Giovani dos Santos. I almost had a closed deal for Cristiano Ronaldo myself. It was a pity to miss those opportunities, but there was no money assigned to the signing of new players for the club’s youth structure at that time”, Portugal told Spanish station Radio Marca.

Portugal was the director of Real’s youth system under former president Florentino Perez, when most of the club’s economic efforts were centred on the development of the famous galactico team.

After returning back from their Asian pre-season tour two days ago, the bulk of FC Barcelona’s squad were joined in training yesterday by Lionel Messi, Gabriel Milito and Rafa Marquez, the three players who had been following a separate preparation plan after their participation in the Copa America. Many expectant fans gathered at La Masia to witness the session, finished off with a training match in which the only goal was scored by Leo Messi.

Barça will travel to Germany today for their next preparatory game: the Franz Beckenbauer Cup, to be played against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena tomorrow. The clash is intended as a testimonial for Bayern’s player Mehmet Scholl.

Lionel Messi has already started preparation for the 2007/08 season. After returning to Barcelona from his home country, where he has spent his holiday, Messi had his first training session at the Camp Nou facilities this morning. The Argentinian’s workout was light and went on for only half an hour. Leo shared the pitch with Gabriel Milito and Rafael Márquez, both of whom resumed training yesterday. The three players, who have had an extended holiday due to their presence in the Copa América, will practice again this afternoon.

FC Barcelona’s squad is currently on a pre-season tour of Asia, from which they will be back by the end of the week. Meanwhile Messi, Milito and Márquez will aim to reach a good physical condition to join their team-mates on their return.

The pair of boots Lionel Messi was wearing when he scored his famous goal against Getafe last season were sold for 4,000 euros at an auction held in Beijing on the weekend. This event took place in the context of the pre-season Asian tour FC Barcelona is currently on. The money raised from the auction, which included other items such a Thierry Henry shirt, will be donated to different charities in Asia.

The FC Barcelona squad had an intense practice in the Mini Estadi this morning ahead of their last league match, to be played against Gimnastic in Tarragona on Sunday.

Training started out at 10.30 a.m. with the usual warming up followed by fast-passing exercises. After some time for individual technique practice and work on long passes carried out in pairs, Frank Rijkaard set up a training match to finish off the session. The Dutch coach divided the players into two teams of ten men and two intense 20-minute games were played between them. The only squad members missing this morning were Deco (due to personal reasons), Edmilson and Gudjohnsen (both suffering knee problems). Present at Barça’s training ground was a notable guest: NBA star Kobe Bryant, who unexpectedly turned up at the club’s facilities to see the session.

Via | FC Barcelona

The complete Argentinian national football squad was finally gathered yesterday and its 20 members did their two first group practice sessions together at the Saint Jakob training field in Basel.

In the morning the team started out with some physical workout followed by reduced-space technical exercises. After having lunch and hearing a speech from team coach Alfio Basile, the players headed for a second training session. A 45-minute 10 v 10 practice match ended the day, with the predictable starters beating the reserves 4-0. Javier Saviola scored three of the goals, and the other was by Lionel Messi.

The friendly game Switzerland vs. Argentina will be played at 20.30 CET on Saturday at the Saint Jakob Park stadium.

In addition, it was finally confirmed yesterday that Algeria will be Argentina’s opponents next Tuesday (June 5) at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, in a match that will close the national team’s European mini-tour.

Via | AFA (spanish)

Lionel Messi vs. Getafe. A bit later than usual, our video showing Leo Messi’s full game against Getafe is now available.

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