Barcelona do not need to release Lionel Messi for the 2008 Beijing Olympics football tournament, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced on Wednesday.
Werder Bremen and Schalke have also won their appeal to prevent Diego and Rafinha from going to Beijing.
Regardless of where you stand on the club v country debate, there are two important factors to consider here:
One, international football means a great deal to South American footballers and as we’ve discussed before, the Olympics are a big thing in South America. The players want to go and the fans want to see them at the Olympics.
Two, if the players get injured at the Olympics the impact will invariably be greater on the clubs rather than the country itself (replacing Messi for one tournament is easier than replacing him for a couple of months).
Both sides have valid points – though right now it seems that Barcelona will get to keep Messi away from the Olympics – hopefully he can stay fit for them throughout the season. So far Messi has been training with the Argentina team and taking part in all the training sessions.
The CAS verdict comes just one day before the men’s football tournament starts. More on the Olympics here.