By DAN KARELL
Following a 58-day absence, Lionel Messi has returned to Barcelona’s game day squad.
On Tuesday, Barcelona head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino included Messi in Barca’s 18-man squad for Wednesday’s Copa Del Rey match against Getafe, which could mark Messi’s return earlier than expected. The Argentine returned to Barcelona on Jan. 2 from Buenos Aires where he had been continuing his rehabilitation from a thigh injury.
The last time Messi played for Barcelona was on Nov. 10, in a 4-1 victory over Real Betis. Despite missing time due to multiple leg muscle injuries this season, Messi has still managed to score 14 goals so far this season and his Barcelona side remain in first place in La Liga, tied with Atletico Madrid on 49 points.
While Messi was included, Xavi, Marc Bartra, and Dani Alves were all rested for the mid-week encounter.
Here are some more stories to start your Tuesday:
WALCOTT RULED OUT OF SEASON, WORLD CUP WITH TORN ACL
Arsenal and their fans were sent a shock on Monday afternoon when the club announced that Theo Walcott’s season was finished.
After undergoing tests from the team’s medical staff, Walcott was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee, suffered towards the end of Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Tottenham in the FA Cup on Saturday. Walcott had only recently returned from an abdominal issue that was originally supposed to keep him out for two weeks, but instead extended to nearly two months.
The 24-year-old forward is set for surgery on his injured knee in London “in the near future,” but the injury has likely cost him a chance at representing England at this summer’s World Cup. The loss of Walcott represents a huge blow not only to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger but also England manager Roy Hodgson.
Walcott missed out on the 2010 World Cup after not being selected in the 23-man squad, and was a surprise inclusion as a 17-year-old in England’s World Cup squad at the 2006 World Cup, though he didn’t play a game.
RONALDO SCORES 400TH CAREER GOAL
With his two goals in Real Madrid’s demolition of Celta de Vigo on Monday, Cristiano Ronaldo set another record in what’s been an incredible career.
The Portuguese star has totaled 400 goals for club and country in official matches, dedicating the two goals on Monday to Portuguese legend Eusebio, who recently passed away at the age of 71. Ronaldo tweeted after the match, “I dedicate these two goals to you Eusebio but in fact you were the one who scored them. You’ll always be in my heart.”
In addition to Ronaldo’s 166 goals in La Liga and 84 goals in the English Premier League, Ronaldo has 59 goals in the UEFA Champions League 30 in both European and World Cup qualification combined, and two goals at the World Cup. Ronaldo has found the back of the net most against Sevilla, scoring 15 times in his career.
Former World Player of the Year Kaka scored his 100th goal for AC Milan in their 3-0 victory over Atalanta on Monday. (REPORT)
Young German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen will not extend his Borussia Mönchengladbach contract when it finishes in 2015, the club confirmed. (REPORT)
Long-time Serie A forward Antonio Di Natale announced his intention to retire at the end of the season. (REPORT)
Reports out of Holland indicate that Ronaldinho’s move to Besiktas in Turkey is now back on. (REPORT)
AS Roma have completed the signings of Argentine Leandro Paredes and Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan, though Paredes will spend the next six months on loan at another club. (REPORT)
What do you think of these reports? Do you see Messi starting on Wednesday? Who is worse off for Walcott’s injury, Arsenal or England? How impressive is Ronaldo’s achievement?
Share your thoughts below.