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In the pink: Messi evaded Girona defenders to set up Barcelona's first goal and to score the second and third

Football

Messi scores twice as Barcelona win friendly

BARCELONA, Spain, Sep 16Lionel Messi scored twice on Wednesday as Barcelona beat second-division Girona 3-1 in a preseason friendly.

Messi helped set up Philippe Coutinho, back from his loan at Bayern Munich, for the first goal after 21 minutes.

The Argentine scored his first after 45 minutes, spinning on the edge of the penalty area and drilling a shot in off the base of the far post. He scored his second, with a deflected shot, after 50 minutes.

He went off after an hour.

Messi only returned to training at the start of last week after saying he wanted to leave the club.

Messi started Barcelona’s first friendly on Saturday, playing 45 minutes without scoring in a 3-1 victory over third-tier Gimnastica Tarragona.

Earlier on Wednesday, La Liga president Javier Tebas said he was pleased Messi had stayed at Barcelona.

“Messi is important for our competition,” said Tebas, at an event to promote the Liga sticker collection. “He is a player who was born in our competition… and hopefully he will finish his career in our league.”

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Barcelona used 20 players in Wednesday’s game at the club’s training centre but neither Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez nor Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal appeared.

Manager Ronald Koeman said after the game he had talked to Suarez and acknowledged Barcelona might not be able to sell him.

“If finally he does not find a team and ends up staying, he will be one more player for the squad,” said Koeman.

Barcelona are due to start their league campaign on September 26 or 27 against Villarreal.

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