Barca's Messi hopes to be fit for end of season

April 18, 2006

BUENOS AIRES, April 18 (Reuters) - Barcelona forward Lionel Messi arrived in Argentina to continue treatment on his injured thigh muscle on Tuesday and said he hoped to be ready for the end of the European season.

The 18-year-old has been out of action since early March when he tore a thigh muscle in his right leg during the second leg of Barcelona's 3-2 aggregate victory over Chelsea in the first knockout round of the Champions League.

Messi has been one Barcelona's most exciting players this season and is expected to shine for Argentina in Germany.

'It doesn't hurt at all, I'm doing the treatment which Barcelona have recommended and I want to be back playing as quickly as possible,' he told reporters at Buenos Aires airport.

'I want to try and play the last games of the season for Barcelona and, of course, for Argentina.'

Messi, who arrived with a Barcelona representative, said he would return to Spain when he was fully fit. Barcelona are poised to retain their Spanish league title.

He was initially to be expected to be ready for Tuesday's semi-final first leg against AC Milan but experiencd problems with the injured leg while training a week ago.

'My anxiety to play again and be with the team maybe made me try and go a bit too quickly,' he said.

Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard has approved the idea of Messi returning home, saying last week that he might benefit from a change of scenery.