Lionel Messi starts first Barcelona game since U-turn after captaincy decision

Lionel Messi started his first game for Barcelona tonight since making a dramatic transfer U-turn at the Nou Camp.

The Argentinian sent shockwaves rippling through world football last month by informing Barca officials of his desire to leave, with reports indicating Manchester City were in pole position to sign him.

Messi was adamant he could exercise a clause in his contract which allowed him to depart at the end of last season, but Barca insisted he still has a year remaining on his deal.

And in a dramatic U-turn, the Ballon d’Or legend has agreed to stay for one final year in Catalonia.

After returning to pre-season training on Monday this week, he was given the nod by new Barca boss Ronald Koeman in their 3-1 friendly victory over Gimnastic this evening.

Messi was given a run-out by Koeman in the opening 45 minutes, before being replaced by Martin Braithwaite at the half-time interval.

He didn’t managed to get on the scoresheet, nevertheless, with Ousmane Dembele opening the scoring for the Catalans after six minutes.

Antoine Griezmann made it 2-0 from the penalty spot 10 minutes later, and Philippe Coutinho also fired home from 12 yards six minutes into the second half after Javi Bonilla had pulled one back for Gimnastic.

Despite expressing his desire to leave the club, Messi has been named as Barca’s first-team captain again in the 2020/21 campaign.

Instead of simply naming a captain and vice-captain, though, the Catalans prefer to select four leaders of their side, with Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto next in line for the armband.

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Pique’s future at the Nou Camp was also thrown into doubt last month when he offered to leave in the aftermath of their humiliating 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Koeman will get his Barca reign underway at home to Villarreal on September 27.

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