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Messi keen to end career at Barca

ESPN staff
January 9, 2014 « Australia rest Johnson for England ODI | Chartbeat test »
Lionel Messi returns in style

Lionel Messi says he has no intention of ever playing for another club other than Barcelona after returning to action with two goals in Wednesday's 4-0 Copa del Rey last-16 first-leg win over Getafe at the Camp Nou.

Messi, 26, was back on the pitch after taking almost two months off to get over the persistent thigh muscle problems which so affected his 2013.

During his time away he had become involved in a much-publicised 'war of words' with Barca vice president Javier-Faus over his salary, leading to some speculation that both he and the club might be interested in a multi-million transfer elsewhere.

But the Blaugrana talisman told AS after a fairytale first game for 59 days that he has no intention of going anywhere.

"My idea is to stay here and play my whole career at Barcelona," Messi said.

The Argentina captain started on the bench, before replacing Andres Iniesta with about 30 minutes remaining.

He appeared a little tentative at first, but quickly settled down and knocked in his first goal calmly from close range, before suggesting he was back to full fitness by sprinting past two Getafe defenders on the way to firing in his second.

"I was really looking forward to coming back," Messi said. "I was a long time off the pitch. I felt good in the training sessions. I tested myself in every way, but out on the pitch everything is different. I felt good physically, aside from the goals. I did not feel any pain in the hamstring. The injury is cured. I will work physically to be able to enjoy myself on the pitch."

It was too early yet to say if he would be ready to start Saturday's huge La Liga clash at joint-leaders Atletico Madrid, Messi hinted.

"I will speak with Martino and the doctor," he said. "After all the injuries, I want to play. If I can be there, I will be. I always think about the club. I have the excitement of always. Now are coming five or six hard months."

Messi added that going back home to Argentina to recover properly from his injury had been a good idea.

"I am very happy to have been in my country," he said. "It was good for me to get away from all of this. And now I am coming back motivated for it to be a great year."

Barca coach Gerard Martino told his post-match news conference that Messi's return was like that of a Hollywood storyline.

"His career is like a movie script," Martino said. "When you think he is not so good, then in two or three minutes he scores two goals. His match was like a summary of the time he has been here."

Martino now has a real selection dilemma ahead of Saturday's game at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, after Cesc Fabregas underlined his good form by scoring Barca's first two goals against Getafe. Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez are also performing well at the moment, while Neymar should be back from flu in time to feature.

"[Fabregas] was the best player of the game," Martino said. "The problem for Saturday you already know, and I will keep having that same problem. They should know that I need them all. It would make me very unhappy to put together a team for Saturday and for people [left out] to feel unimportant."

Messi, who returned to Barca last week after completing the last stage of his recovery from a thigh operation in his native Argentina, replaced Andres Iniesta in the 64th minute, just after midfielder Fabregas had scored his second of the night from the penalty spot.

Messi almost set up Pedro minutes after his arrival on the pitch, but he soon found the back of the net himself when Sergio Busquets floated a ball to Martin Montoya, with the striker pouncing on the rebound from goalkeeper Jordi Codina.

The returning star then added his second three minutes later in the third minute of stoppage time after he raced onto the end of Alex Song's through ball to rifle it past the Getafe gloveman.

Fabregas, who had opened the scoring with an eighth-minute header before putting away the second from the spot in the 63rd minute after Valera brought down Pedro, had already been awarded the man of the match award before Messi's late double.

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