Lionel Messi made his first appearance for Barcelona since his failed attempt to leave the club, playing in their friendly with Gimnastic de Tarragona.
The 33-year-old Argentine submitted a transfer request in August but decided to stay last week because no club would be able to afford his release clause. Messi started in the 3-1 win over third-tier Nastic after the club confirmed he would remain as captain. He was replaced along with the other starters at half-time. Ousmane Dembele opened the scoring with Antoine Griezmann and Phillipe Coutinho netting penalties. Messi, Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer, believed he had a clause in his contract which would allow him to leave for free and did not begin pre-season training. Barcelona and La Liga insisted that clause was no longer valid – with any club wishing to buy him required to pay a release clause of 700m euros (£624m) – and Messi returned to training after saying he would not take the club to court. Barca’s season starts on Sunday, 27 September with a home game against Villarreal in La Liga.