BARCELONA: Lionel Messi returned to training with Barcelona on Monday, almost two weeks after he had told the club he wanted to leave.

After reluctantly changing his mind, Messi was back with the team to prepare for the new season. He practiced separately from the rest of the squad at the Joan Gamper training ground ahead of an evening session, his first under new coach Ronald Koeman, because he still needs to undergo a second coronavirus test before rejoining them.

Messi said last week he wasn’t happy with Barca but would rather stay than get into a legal battle with the club. Messi wanted to leave for free but the club said the contract clause he invoked had already expired, so he has to stay at least until the end of his contract in June 2021.

Messi told the club he wanted to leave on August 25 and had not reported for the squad’s required coronavirus testing a week ago. He also had not showed up when his team-mates resumed training last week.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

The return of Barcelona’s embittered captain and greatest ever player may not be an easy one, particularly given some of his closest team-mates are likely to be absent.

Luis Suarez, Messi’s best friend and neighbour, as well as Arturo Vidal, are expected to join Juventus and Inter Milan respectively.

His decision to notify the club via burofax that he intended to leave came after he met with Koeman, talks that reportedly involved Dutchman taking a hard line with his top striker.

Koeman said in his first press conference that he “only wanted players who want to be here and to give everything”.

Barca, who will be looking to reclaim the La Liga title after surrendering it to Real Madrid last season, are sitting out the first two weeks of the new campaign which begins on Friday due to reaching the Champions League quarter-finals.

Koeman’s side will instead play pre-season friendlies against Gim­nastic de Tarragona on Saturday and Girona on September 16 before their first league game at home to Villarreal on September 27.