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By ESPN Staff
Jul 24, 2008

Puyol hopeful Barca block Messi's Olympic dream

Barcelona captain Carles Puyol hopes his club can prevent Argentina star Lionel Messi from going to the Olympic Games.

The Argentinian Football Association (AFA) announced their squad at the beginning of July and included the Barca forward.

However, the Games clash with the dates of the Champions League preliminary round and Barca insist they will do everything in their power to hold onto the 21-year-old.

Barcelona have been told Messi may be suspended for the duration of the Olympic tournament if he is not released, as FIFA rules state all players under 23 must be released by their clubs if called up to play.

But Puyol believes the loss of the South American at such a crucial time would be a blow to the club.

'We have a great squad, but nobody doubts that Messi is a massive player for us,' Puyol told Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo. 'In my opinion he is one of the best players in the world. I hope that everything gets sorted out quickly.

'We cannot control the situation, but I hope he can be here with us.'

Messi is now the main star in the Barca squad following the departure of Ronaldinho to AC Milan last week.

The 28-year-old Brazilian failed to show his best form during a final troubled season at the Nou Camp, but Puyol still recognised the contribution Ronaldinho had made to the club in recent years.

'He has given us so much,' he said of his former team-mate. 'He changed the situation of the club. He has been one of the best players to ever pass through Barcelona.

'I can only thank him for what he has given us and I wish him plenty of luck in Milan.'

Barcelona sporting director Txiki Begiristain has confirmed the club hope to reach an agreement with the Argentinian Football Association.

'We still believe that we are right. Teams in Germany are on our side as are the LFP (Spanish League),' Begiristain told Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo. 'On our side we want Messi to play the first leg of the Champions League (third qualifying round) and then we'll release him to play at the Olympic Games.

'We understand that reaching this agreement is the best solution. If we get a good result then, without being over-confident, we should be able to let the player go.'

Begiristain believes the agreement suggested by Barca could help prevent such problems arising in the future.

'We are trying to make it so the agreement between Barca and the AFA serves as an example to the rest of football too,' he said.

However, he admitted that as yet the AFA were not backing down, adding: 'As we have not yet had our proposal accepted, every party will remain where they are.'

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