April 17, 2008

As Barcelona striker Lionel Messi prepares to make his first-team comeback after his injury layoff, he has weighed in on the Ronaldinho transfer saga, concluding that he would prefer for his friend and colleague to stay at Camp Nou.

The young Argentine spoke out in favor of the embattled Brazilian at Thursday's press conference.

"At Barcelona, we all want him to stay in the team," Messi said. "If he goes, then from my point of view it's a pity. He helped me a lot in the locker room. Any team would love to have him. It's still my hope that it'll be us that do so."

Messi rejected the idea that he would replace 'Dinho as the figurehead of the club should his teammate pack his bags.

"No, I don't think that," he said, pledging his support to the embattled Brazilian.

Messi is soon set to overcome his injury problems and return to the first team, hopefully starting against Espanyol on Saturday.

This appearance, though, will most likely be only as a substitute, with next week's Champions League semifinal against Manchester United being of greater concern to most.

However, he was keen to play down the personal nature of the clash.

"The match between Manchester United and Barcelona is not a clash between Cristiano Ronaldo and myself," he noted. "These are two big teams. As for me, I need pitch minutes ahead of it, and I will be fine to face Espanyol."

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