Barcelona refuses to cede Messi to Argentina for Olympics
The club refuses to release the star player as the Beijing games coincides with the Champion League tournament preliminary rounds.23 July 2008
MADRID - Argentina's Olympic soccer coach Sergio Batista admitted that the team's plans to bring Leo Messi to the upcoming Beijing Games had suffered a setback, as Barcelona, the player's club in Spain, has thus far refused to release the star player as the world sporting event coincides with the Champions League tournament preliminary rounds. Messi is currently training with Barcelona in Scotland.
On Monday night, before the majority of the Argentinian national team took off for Japan to take part in a pre-Olympic friendly, Batista admitted that it would not be "easy" for Messi to join the team, after previously showing significantly more optimism that Argentina's soccer federation (AFA) would secure the star forward's release.
"We are hoping for an immediate solution so that Messi can be with us, but it will not be easy because the people at Barcelona keep insisting that they will not give him up," the coach said.
However, the coach's statement seems to contradict a posting on the AFA's own website which refers to Messi's presence in Asia as a done deal. Yesterday, the website stated that 14 of 18 of Batista's players had been training outside Buenos Aires before flying to Japan.
"In Japan, Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano (Liverpool), Federico Fazio and Lautaro Acosta (Sevilla), will join them," the statement read.
An AFA spokesman later said there was nothing new to add to the web statement.
On the other side of the tussle, Barça sporting director Rafael Yuste yesterday said that the club was doing everything possible to "keep the player away from all the pressure," adding: "We should have some solutions very shortly."
Barcelona seems to have the stronger claim to the player, especially as the International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge had previously declared that clubs involved in the Champions League pre-tournament could not be forced to release their players.
Because the Olympics do not make up part of the FIFA calendar, clubs have no legal obligation to facilitate a players' release.
Barça is just one of several soccer clubs in a tug of war with national soccer federations and players over the grey area which defines their responsibility toward the release of star players for the Beijing Games.
German club Schalke 04 said Tuesday they are considering taking legal action against defender Rafael Aparecido, or Rafinha, for breach of contract after he left the club's training camp without permission to join Brazil's Olympic team.
[El Pais / K. Ramundo / Expatica]