Argentinian midfielder Lionel Messi is relieved that his FC Barcelona career is back on track after being granted a Spanish passport on Monday.
The teenager's long wait for dual citizenship came to an end on the eve of tonight's UEFA Champions League game against Udinese Calcio where Messi can finally make his first official home appearance of the season, having been denied a place in Barça's Primera División lineups because of his nationality.
"It all happened very quickly," said Messi, who did not win a place in Frank Rijkaard's domestic squad because Samuel Eto'o, Rafael Márquez and Ronaldinho already occupied the three berths permitted for non-EU nationals in Spanish league games. "I signed, I swore allegiance and it was all over."
Despite being at the club since the age of 13, doubts had been raised as to whether the midfielder would be granted Spanish citizenship until December, with speculation suggesting that he may have to be loaned out or even sold to a club that could accommodate him. However, Messi insists he never thought of leaving.
"I have always said that I want to triumph here and stay at the club for a long time," the 18-year-old said. "I read about offers for me in the press, but I never took any notice because I never considered leaving. It has not been easy waiting for this moment though. I said that I was calm and patient, but on the inside I felt bad because I was being prevented from doing what I love most."
Messi was unable to play in league matches due to the Spanish Football Federation restrictions, but he was able to be named in the squad for Barcelona's opening Champions League game against Werder Bremen as he was considered to be an assimilated player by UEFA.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.