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By ESPN Staff

Barca to let Messi stay at Olympic Games

Barcelona will allow Lionel Messi to remain with the Argentina squad for the duration of the Olympic Games.

Messi was selected to represent Argentina at the Games, but after the 21-year-old joined up with the squad in China the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that clubs did not have to release players because the Olympics do not appear on the official FIFA calendar.

This afternoon sporting director Txiki Begiristain and coach Pep Guardiola officially confirmed they would not be recalling Messi after the player expressed his desire to remain at the Games during talks with the club late last night.

'It's the best decision as, although with Leo we're a better side, these are exceptional circumstances,' Guardiola told a press conference held at the Nou Camp on Thursday afternoon.

'He's happy there and is satisfied and there's no need to take this any further.'

Begiristain added: 'We want the player to be happy and his happiness is there for all to see.'

The sporting director also confirmed earlier reports that the Catalan club have allowed their player to stay in China after striking a deal with the Argentina Football Association (AFA).

The AFA will now pay for a large insurance policy which would see the Nou Camp outfit receive a large pay-out should Messi be injured at any point during the Games.

The 21-year-old will also be exempt from certain friendly matches involving Argentina, allowing him to remain in Spain with the Barcelona squad.

The agreement is similar to that which German clubs Werder Bremen and Schalke both demanded of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) after allowing their players Diego and Rafinha to remain at the Games.

'The only special significance this goal has is that it was the first in the Olympic Games for us. I want to forget all the other things that happened,' Messi told Argentinian TV station TyC Sports. 'I was always sure of what I wanted to do. I wanted to be here. The club backed me. I only had to sort out some problems.

'This is what I wanted - to play the Olympic Games. Now I am enjoying both the Games and the team we have.'

Ivory Coast proved tough opposition, however.

'It was harder than we expected,' Messi said. 'They are in a very good physical form and play really well.

'It was our first match, we were a little bit nervous. We want to do things well and we started with a victory. That's very important. I think we will calm down in the second game.'

Argentina's second game is on Sunday against Australia, who drew 1-1 with Serbia in the opening match of Group A.

In Group B, Holland coach Foppe de Haan blamed the conditions as the Dutch were held to a 0-0 draw by Nigeria.

The 65-year-old said: 'It was unimaginable. I think it was even more muggy and damp on the pitch than in the stands.

'Those 50,000 spectators radiate a lot of heat and moisture too, of course, and it looked as if the smog couldn't leave the stadium.

'When you look at these extreme circumstances, I think we did a reasonable job.'


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