June 25, 2008

Argentine ace Lionel Messi has insisted he will defend his country's title at the Olympic Games this summer, regardless of Barcelona's stance on the situation.

Los Albicelestes didn't concede a goal four years ago as they claimed gold virtually unopposed while Paraguay took the silver and Italy was forced to settle for bronze.

The team in Athens boasted the likes of Roberto Ayala, Gabriele Heinze, Javier Mascherano, Lucho Gonzalez, Javier Saviola and Golden Boot winner Carlos Tevez -- and its squad for Beijing is no less formidable.

Premier League stars Tevez and Mascherano are set to defend their medals, while the likes of Sergio Aguero and Real Madrid duo Gonzalo Higuain and Fernando Gago will join Messi among Argentina's La Liga contingent.

Barcelona has attempted to block the 20-year-old from going to China as the Olympics coincide with the opening of the European season, meaning he would miss the club's first Champions League fixtures.

But Messi is determined to represent his country, and insisted he is looking forward playing alongside Aguero & Co. this August.

"I am going to the Olympic Games whatever may happen," Messi said. "The truth is though that I do not know how we can resolve things, but there is no doubt that I will be there.

"I have really high hopes with the Olympic squad. I am very pleased that Sergio Aguero is joining us and I am looking forward to playing alongside him."

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