By DAN KARELL
It took Lionel Messi nearly 30 minutes to score his first goal after making his first appearance in a Barcelona shirt since going down with a thigh injury in early November. It only took him two more minutes to score his second.
The Argentine star scored the final two goals for Barcelona in their 4-0 Copa Del Rey victory against Getafe on Wednesday, highlighting his return with a stellar performance. More importantly for him and Barcelona, Messi said after the match that he felt no pain in his thigh, which has been bothering him for the last 10 months or so with on-and-off injuries.
“I felt really fit, I didn’t feel any pain in my hamstring,” Messi told Barcelona’s official TV station. “Once I had gotten over my injury, I worked on my fitness so I’d be able to enjoy myself on the pitch.”
Now Messi and Barcelona will focus on making sure he is fit for the top of the table clash against Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
“I will speak to (head coach Gerardo) Martino and with the doctor,” Messi said. “I just want to start playing again. If I’m fit enough to play, I will play. I always think about what’s best for the club. I am as keen to play as ever.”
Here are some more stories from around the world:
BAYERN CHAIRMAN IN FAVOR OF EUROPEAN SCHEDULE SHIFT
It seems unlikely, but one powerful European chairman is in favor of moving the European soccer schedule in line with the one used in Major League Soccer
With plenty of talk surrounding the 2022 Qatar World Cup and it’s possible dates, Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has decided that a shift in European schedule for the World Cup might not be such a bad idea.
“Everywhere, be it Germany, France or England, summer is the best period of the year,” Rummenigge said in an interview with France Football. “And that is the season we don’t play. In deepest winter, when it is very cold and snowing, we play nearly all the time in conditions that are disagreeable for both players and spectators. It is not logical.”
If the 2022 World Cup is moved from the summer to the winter, some leagues around the world would likely have to alter their schedules so that there would be games played during the summer, when there is normally a break. However, considering the recent weather received both in Europe and the Eastern and Midwestern United States, moving to a summer calendar could make play on the field better for European sides.
ESPN NAMES DARKE AS LEAD BROADCASTER FOR 2014 WORLD CUP
After four years of solid work covering the U.S. Men’s National Team and other soccer ventures on ESPN, the worldwide leader gave Ian Darke a huge promotion ahead of the 2014 World Cup.
ESPN announced on Wednesday that Darke has been named the network’s lead commentator for the World Cup in Brazil this summer, taking the place of Martin Tyler, who was released from his contract to pursue other opportunities. Darke will be on-site to do play-by-play of the World Cup opener (Brazil vs. Croatia), the World Cup final, and other matches in between including every USMNT match.
“I am thrilled to be covering another World Cup for ESPN, particularly in such a fanatical hotbed of the sport as Brazil,” Darke said in a statement. “The venues mean the match windows will be ideal for the ever increasing and passionate community of soccer fans in the USA, who will see every minute of every game.”
Since joining ESPN, Darke has been behind the mic for many memorable soccer moments, including Landon Donovan’s goal for the USMNT against Algeria, Abby Wambach’s equalizer against Brazil in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, and Sergio Aguero’s English Premier League title winning goal for Manchester City in May 2012.
Real Madrid have signed midfielder Xabi Alonso to a contract extension to keep him at the club through 2016. (REPORT)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain advanced in the Coupe de France, 5-2, against Stade Brestois. (REPORT)
Manchester City routed West Ham United, 6-0, in the first leg of the League Cup semifinals. Alvaro Negredo scored a hat-trick. (REPORT)
Atletico Madrid defender Juanfran had his yellow card suspension rescinded after an appeal to remove the yellow card was accepted by the Spanish Professional League. (REPORT)
Portugal will take on fellow World Cup side Cameroon in a friendly match in Lille, France on March 5. (REPORT)
What do you think of this news? Do you expect Messi to start against Atletico? Do you see Europe ever moving to a summer schedule? Glad to see Ian Darke given the lead broadcaster position?
Share your thoughts below.