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Pain-free Messi ready to resume his dominance

Updated: 2014-01-10 08:10
By Agence France-Presse in Madrid ( China Daily)

Lionel Messi said he is looking forward to another big year in 2014 after scoring twice in his comeback from injury as Barcelona swept aside Getafe 4-0 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey last 16 tie on Wednesday.

The four-time World Player of the Year made his first appearance since early November as a substitute just after the hour mark with Barca leading 2-0 thanks to a Cesc Fabregas double.

And it didn't take long for the Argentine to make his mark as he slotted home from close range before registering his 16th goal of the season with a trademark solo run and finish in stoppage time.

The performance eased concerns he might be returning to action too soon.

"I had a lot of time away and I felt very good in the training sessions that I had, but playing in a competitive game is completely different," Messi told Barca TV.

"More than the goals, I feel very good physically and I have been able to play without any pain."

After undergoing the first period of his recovery process in Barcelona, Messi went to Argentina to continue his recuperation in December.

There will be high expectations placed upon the 26-year-old over the next seven months as he spearheads Barca's campaign to win trophies on three fronts before leading his country at the World Cup in Brazil.

But he said he is just happy to be back playing again.

"I am very happy. I was able to spend a lot of time in my country with my family and friends and to get away from everything. But now that I am back I am excited and desperate to have a great year.

"I want to keep achieving things, to contribute to our play, help my teammates and hopefully we can achieve our objectives.

"They will be five very tough months, but we will fight to win everything, as we always do, and then I can start thinking about the national team."

Next up for Barcelona is a crucial clash with Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

The Catalans had always hoped Messi would be fit to play a role in the Spanish capital, but he said it will be up to Barca coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino whether he starts.

"I will speak with Tata and he is the one that will decide, but right now I don't know," Messi said.

"No one is irreplaceable. I watched the games at home and they were very impressive. Whoever plays on this squad, they always respond to the challenge."

Messi confirmed he will definitely attend Monday's Ballon d'Or ceremony in Zurich.

However, he insisted winning for a fifth consecutive year is not a priority.

"For me, the most important things are the titles you win as a group - but it is always a great compliment to be nominated for what the award represents."

(China Daily 01/10/2014 page24)