Soccer

Barcelona hand Messi extended Christmas break

Lionel Messi will miss Barcelona’s La Liga game against Eibar on Tuesday after being given extra time off at Christmas by the club.

Messi, 33, returned to Argentina last week after Barca’s 3-0 win against Real Valladolid and has been granted permission to remain in his homeland for a few more days.

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Barca say he will return to training after the Eibar game and will be available for Sunday’s trip to Huesca in La Liga.

It will be the third game Messi has been rested for in the last month. He also sat out the trips to Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros in the Champions League.

By the time Barca travel to Huesca at the weekend, Messi will be free to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with other clubs.

The forward’s deal at Camp Nou expires on June 30 and he’s not even opened talks over a renewal as he awaits to see who is elected as the club’s new president on Jan. 24.

In the meantime, other clubs are free to make him a proposal ahead of a potential free transfer in the summer when his Barca terms expire.

Messi wanted to leave Barcelona in August and ESPN reported at the time that Manchester City led the race to sign him. However, the Blaugrana would not let him leave.

Sources told ESPN earlier this month that Paris Saint-Germain are also monitoring his situation with regards to offering him a contract and reuniting him with former Barca teammate Neymar.

Messi, in an interview that will air on Spanish television on Sunday, has said that he struggled at the start of the season due to the situation regarding his future and his desire to leave.

However, he says he is feeling better now and is hungry to help Barca win silverware this season under coach Ronald Koeman.

In 18 appearances this season, he has scored 10 times, moving on to 644 Barca goals and breaking Pele’s record as the player to score the most goals for a single club.

As well as Messi, Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto and Ansu Fati will all miss Tuesday’s game at home to Eibar. The trio remain sidelined with various injuries.

Ousmane Dembele should be available for selection, though, after recovering from a minor hamstring issue, while Antoine Griezmann’s expected to return to the side after resting against Valladolid.

Barca have shown signs of improvement recently, picking up 10 points from their last four league games to climb to fifth place in the table.

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