Messi links up with Barca despite Olympics

July 21, 2008

Lionel Messi has arrived in Scotland with his Barcelona team-mates despite his Olympic call-up for Argentina.

Barcelona are reluctant to let the 21-year-old join up with his international team-mates, who are due to meet in Tokyo on Tuesday.

However, FIFA may still step in to force Barcelona to release Messi for the under-23 tournament in Beijing, which could stop the forward playing in Barca's Champions League qualifier.

New signings Alexander Hleb, Gerard Pique and Daniel Alves are also with the Catalan side and Spain's Euro 2008 heroes such as Xavi will follow on Wednesday.

Barcelona face Hibernian at Murrayfield on Thursday and Dundee United two days later, but assistant manager Tito Vilanova has warned fans not to expect them to be firing on all cylinders.

Barcelona are in their second week of pre-season under new boss Pep Guardiola, and will work on their attacking formation at their St Andrews base after concentrating on defence at home last week.

'Things have changed over the years,' Vilanova said.

'Years ago people didn't see the first team's pre-season games. Now everything's on TV right from the word go.

'Sometimes people expect to see the level you only reach in October or November, when the team has played with the new players, the new system and the new methods, and done the new training sessions.

'That's impossible because some players are still missing in the first week. People need to see us over time and see how we do then.'