Lionel Messi rejoins Barcelona training as LaLiga boss welcomes decision to stay

LaLiga president Javier Tebas has expressed his relief that Lionel Messi will remain at Barcelona this season after the forward finally returned to training.

Messi told Barcelona that he wanted to leave last month, but has since been reported as saying he will stay because he did not want to face “the club I love” in court over his £624million release clause.

Barcelona posted a picture of Messi on Twitter on Monday evening showing the Argentinian back in action at the club’s Ciutat Esportiva training ground. He had previously declined to take a routine coronavirus test as the rest of the squad began their pre-season just over a week ago.

“We were worried yes, but not seriously worried,” said Tebas, speaking at LaLiga’s promotional launch for the 2020-21 campaign. “Obviously, we want Messi to be with us.

“I’ve always said, he’s probably the best player in the history of football. He’s been in our competition for 20 years.

“As the president of LaLiga I would really like him to end his days in our competition.

“For 20 years in the history of LaLiga we’ve had Lionel Messi and obviously we were worried if he was going to leave.

Lionel Messi, left, in Champions League action against Chelsea in 2006
Lionel Messi, left, in Champions League action against Chelsea in 2006

“But anyway, we’re so pleased he’s going to stay with us and not go to another league.”

Barcelona released an image of Messi earlier on Monday modelling their new third kit ahead of his return to training for the first time under under new boss Ronald Koeman.

Messi informed Barcelona last month of his intentions to utilise a clause in his contract which his representatives claimed allowed him to leave on a free transfer.

Barca insisted the time had passed for the clause to be activated and that the player would need to pay the release clause in his contract if another club wanted to sign him this summer.

Messi subsequently revealed in an interview published last Friday that he had reversed his decision, saying he could never go to court against the club to secure a move.

The new LaLiga season is launched on Friday with Granada’s home game against Athletic Bilbao, but Tebas said he did not expect fans to return to stadiums in Spain until early next year.

“It’s not up to us at LaLiga, so it’s difficult to answer,” Tebas added. “But based on recent news that we’re seeing from the government, not until they start to offer vaccinations to the whole population in Spain.

“So to see the stadiums as full as before I think it will be just after we get the vaccination, maybe January or February next year.”

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LaLiga TV has announced expanded television coverage in the UK this season via free-to-air broadcaster FreeSports.

FreeSports will broadcast a weekly preview show, Futbol Fridays, and regular Friday night free-to-air fixtures.

The sports channel will also broadcast live coverage of LaLiga matches with a 3pm kick-off on a Saturday.

LaLigaTV have confirmed the channel will remain free for Sky’s UK customers via until October 1.