Tuesday Kickoff: Messi back in game-day squad; Walcott to miss World Cup; and more

LionelMessiBarcelonatraining2014 (Getty)

By DAN KARELL

Following a 58-day absence, Lionel Messi has returned to Barcelona’s game day squad.

On Tuesday, Barcelona head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino included Messi in Barca’s 18-man squad for Wednesday’s Copa Del Rey match against Getafe, which could mark Messi’s return earlier than expected. The Argentine returned to Barcelona on Jan. 2 from Buenos Aires where he had been continuing his rehabilitation from a thigh injury.

The last time Messi played for Barcelona was on Nov. 10, in a 4-1 victory over Real Betis. Despite missing time due to multiple leg muscle injuries this season, Messi has still managed to score 14 goals so far this season and his Barcelona side remain in first place in La Liga, tied with Atletico Madrid on 49 points.

While Messi was included, Xavi, Marc Bartra, and Dani Alves were all rested for the mid-week encounter.

Here are some more stories to start your Tuesday:

WALCOTT RULED OUT OF SEASON, WORLD CUP WITH TORN ACL

Arsenal and their fans were sent a shock on Monday afternoon when the club announced that Theo Walcott’s season was finished.

After undergoing tests from the team’s medical staff, Walcott was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee, suffered towards the end of Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Tottenham in the FA Cup on Saturday. Walcott had only recently returned from an abdominal issue that was originally supposed to keep him out for two weeks, but instead extended to nearly two months.

The 24-year-old forward is set for surgery on his injured knee in London “in the near future,” but the injury has likely cost him a chance at representing England at this summer’s World Cup. The loss of Walcott represents a huge blow not only to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger but also England manager Roy Hodgson.

Walcott missed out on the 2010 World Cup after not being selected in the 23-man squad, and was a surprise inclusion as a 17-year-old in England’s World Cup squad at the 2006 World Cup, though he didn’t play a game.

RONALDO SCORES 400TH CAREER GOAL 

With his two goals in Real Madrid’s demolition of Celta de Vigo on Monday, Cristiano Ronaldo set another record in what’s been an incredible career.

The Portuguese star has totaled 400 goals for club and country in official matches, dedicating the two goals on Monday to Portuguese legend Eusebio, who recently passed away at the age of 71. Ronaldo tweeted after the match, “I dedicate these two goals to you Eusebio but in fact you were the one who scored them. You’ll always be in my heart.”

In addition to Ronaldo’s 166 goals in La Liga and 84 goals in the English Premier League, Ronaldo has 59 goals in the UEFA Champions League 30 in both European and World Cup qualification combined, and two goals at the World Cup. Ronaldo has found the back of the net most against Sevilla, scoring 15 times in his career.

QUICK KICKS

Former World Player of the Year Kaka scored his 100th goal for AC Milan in their 3-0 victory over Atalanta on Monday. (REPORT)

Young German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen will not extend his Borussia Mönchengladbach contract when it finishes in 2015, the club confirmed. (REPORT)

Long-time Serie A forward Antonio Di Natale announced his intention to retire at the end of the season. (REPORT)

Reports out of Holland indicate that Ronaldinho’s move to Besiktas in Turkey is now back on. (REPORT)

AS Roma have completed the signings of Argentine Leandro Paredes and Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan, though Paredes will spend the next six months on loan at another club. (REPORT)

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What do you think of these reports? Do you see Messi starting on Wednesday? Who is worse off for Walcott’s injury, Arsenal or England? How impressive is Ronaldo’s achievement?

Share your thoughts below.

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25 Responses to Tuesday Kickoff: Messi back in game-day squad; Walcott to miss World Cup; and more

  1. Yevgeniy says:

    I find it strange that there isn’t even a rumor about Ronaldinho coming to MLS. EUR 10mm for 2.5 years is doable by several teams. And if he is going to Turkey, I suppose he would also consider MLS. I would love to see him in the league, but probably not suiting up for my team.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      My two cents we are better off with someone who wants to be here than winning a bidding war for a player who might or might not have any desire to play here. Henry — even more so than Beckham — has done us a world of good. He would come do charity events here even before he moved — showing his interest — and his tenure here has not been an endless string of loan moves or comments that could be understood as disparaging.

      We’ve taken a few shots at Ronaldinho and it always ends up with him going back or moving elsewhere. It’s a free country and we can keep trying but the smartest play is you sign people who are married to Americans, have a desire to be here, or are otherwise attracted to MLS. They are more likely to be content here no matter how the soccer goes, and they are your ambassadors for the next set of acquisitions.

      The Dynamo have had a similar running saga with GDS. At some point you should just cut bait because you are either being bid up beyond value/beyond salary cap sense or being used to drive up the value of more desirable deals.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      The exception I’d make is a player like Kaka who may be playing out a contract, if he is implicitly on the hook here when that’s done. The general understanding there seems to be get O-City set and he’ll show up for them when his deal is done. In that case, drawn out courtship OK.

    • AcidBurn says:

      Ronaldinho would be an awful fit for MLS. Aging superstar with questionable work ethic = not a good fit for MLS and its physical style. Remember Juninho was tearing it up in Brazil too and he didn’t last half a season with RBNY.

      Plus, Ronaldinho in either LA or NY would be more time in da club, less time on the training field.

      Stay away, please, MLS.

  2. Stir Crazy says:

    Not good for Bradley. I wouldn’t of minded him being a rotation man at Roma, but if Roma doesn’t sell Strootman or Pjanic, then he’s facing stiff competition for a spot.

    As it stands, Florenzi, De Rossi, Strootman, Pjanic, Maquinho and now Nainggolan and this kid Leandro Paredes are all competing with Bradley for a spot in 4 or 5 man central mid rotation

    • Frank L says:

      I guess Bradley is going to have to step up his game and earn a starting position.

      • Tom says:

        A first eleven position isn’t in the cards. He’s competing for backup minutes, and he’s going to lose a chunk of those to Nainggolan. If more midfielders don’t leave, he might need a loan.

    • slowleftarm says:

      Nothing to worry about. He’s either good enough or he isn’t. Playing at top team in a big 4 league is always going to invovles competition for places.

      • Stir Crazy says:

        Well the worry is if he isn’t good enough, he isn’t going to get playing time.

        I this just means Roma is going to sell after someone after all.

    • Annelid Gustator says:

      I think yes and no–it seems to me that Strootman and De Rossi are the real reasons MB isn’t in the XI more–he’s backup to both of them.

      Apparently De Rossi said that he’d ask for a transfer in Summer if Roma didn’t win the scudetto–which they won’t. And Strootman and Pjanic also have wealthy suitors.

      • Stir Crazy says:

        Right. There’s a lot of attention on the three you mentioned. De Rossi recently said he wouldn’t join Man U, considering it suicide, but apparently most of the top teams in the EPL and PSG are interested in Pjanic and Strootman

    • bryan says:

      well the guys in front of him continue to get suspensions and injuries, so at least he is getting PT. hopefully he can show he deserves to start on a regular basis.

    • Dennis says:

      I think it is good for Bradley and the USMNT. While many think he is the 4th in the list of Roma midfielders, he is important in that he is one who can step in and play the role of any of the 3 in front of him without Roma seeing a big fall-off. Also, Bradley is very competitive and he will work hard to win the starting spot from one of the others, even if he fails at that, the effort will make him a better player. Any of the 3 others could be sold in the next 6 months and Bradley would be the heir apparent, even if Roma makes a new signing as a replacement.

      In short, Bradley is in the position where you want players to be if they want to improve; he is competing daily with players who are just a bit better than he is right now, that means there is always pressure to get better, but the talent gap is not so large as to be insurmountable. All it takes is for one of the others to stumble a bit, or for Bradley to make some improvements.

    • Tom says:

      I think people are missing that Roma just brought in a new, highly sought after midfielder who is much higher paid than Bradley. This is not the same situation as 2 days ago. Mike just definitively dropped down the depth chart from where he was as a backup.

      • Annelid Gustator says:

        They brought in a highly-paid *attacking* midfielder. That’s not the role that Bradley’s been playing–he’s been used more in the defensive or box-to-box roles.

        It seems to me more likely that they’re about to execute a good bit of business… that is, sell someone high.

    • danny says:

      Not sure what to make of this situation. It really seems like Roma is going to sell one of their big three midfielders which will open things up a bit for Bradley even with the new signing. Management seems to like Bradley, along with other players/fans. So he is good to have on the team. However, if he drops out of the rotation completely, he should move and there will be plenty of teams interested, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  3. Stir Crazy says:

    Walcott injury is a big blow to the England national team, he’s played some of the best, most consistent football of his career this yr.

    Of Lennon, Townsend, Lallana and Milner, three will probably make the WC

    • CroCajun1003 says:

      Sad news. Always hate to see a player miss a chance at playing in the World Cup.

    • fischy says:

      Y’know — I was listening to that game on my satellite radio — and the announcers — Tottenham homers — were getting all over Walcott because they said he was laying on the ground (maybe they said he was rolling around, too) for “3 or 4 minutes” as Tottenham went on the attack, and then Walcott got up and joined Arsenal’s attack when the ball finally came back down that end.

      • C(note) says:

        That was not the same attack he injured his ACL on. He is go down and stay Down as tottenham went up field. When arsenal came back on the counter theo popped up and joined although slowly. It looks like an ankle was bothering him. Later on he then tore his knee up during an awkward tackle

        • Dennis says:

          Ii did not see the game, but it is hard to know when Walcott actualy tore his ACL. When I tore mine, I went down pretty sure something bad had happened, but there was no pain afterward, so I got up resumed and fell again; it is not impossible that he tore his ACL, but managed to compensate enough for a while. I have seen players without an ACL compete in soccer, but it is risky to do so since absence of an ACL makes further injury to the knee likely in any sport that involves change of direction or twisting.

          • Sean says:

            Happened towards the end of the game. He went down and stayed down. Arsenal went to 10 men since they used all there subs. It didn’t seem like much live, jarred it in the turf. He was carted off taunting the away fans.