Wednesday Evening Ticker: Messi marks return with brace; Bayern chairman favors schedule shift; and more

LionelMessiBarcelona1-GetafeLaLiga2014 (Getty)

By DAN KARELL

It took Lionel Messi nearly 30 minutes to score his first goal after making his first appearance in a Barcelona shirt since going down with a thigh injury in early November. It only took him two more minutes to score his second.

The Argentine star scored the final two goals for Barcelona in their 4-0 Copa Del Rey victory against Getafe on Wednesday, highlighting his return with a stellar performance. More importantly for him and Barcelona, Messi said after the match that he felt no pain in his thigh, which has been bothering him for the last 10 months or so with on-and-off injuries.

“I felt really fit, I didn’t feel any pain in my hamstring,” Messi told Barcelona’s official TV station. “Once I had gotten over my injury, I worked on my fitness so I’d be able to enjoy myself on the pitch.”

Now Messi and Barcelona will focus on making sure he is fit for the top of the table clash against Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

“I will speak to (head coach Gerardo) Martino and with the doctor,” Messi said. “I just want to start playing again. If I’m fit enough to play, I will play. I always think about what’s best for the club. I am as keen to play as ever.”

Here are some more stories from around the world:

BAYERN CHAIRMAN IN FAVOR OF EUROPEAN SCHEDULE SHIFT

It seems unlikely, but one powerful European chairman is in favor of moving the European soccer schedule in line with the one used in Major League Soccer

With plenty of talk surrounding the 2022 Qatar World Cup and it’s possible dates, Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has decided that a shift in European schedule for the World Cup might not be such a bad idea.

“Everywhere, be it Germany, France or England, summer is the best period of the year,” Rummenigge said in an interview with France Football. “And that is the season we don’t play. In deepest winter, when it is very cold and snowing, we play nearly all the time in conditions that are disagreeable for both players and spectators. It is not logical.”

If the 2022 World Cup is moved from the summer to the winter, some leagues around the world would likely have to alter their schedules so that there would be games played during the summer, when there is normally a break. However, considering the recent weather received both in Europe and the Eastern and Midwestern United States, moving to a summer calendar could make play on the field better for European sides.

ESPN NAMES DARKE AS LEAD BROADCASTER FOR 2014 WORLD CUP

After four years of solid work covering the U.S. Men’s National Team and other soccer ventures on ESPN, the worldwide leader gave Ian Darke a huge promotion ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

ESPN announced on Wednesday that Darke has been named the network’s lead commentator for the World Cup in Brazil this summer, taking the place of Martin Tyler, who was released from his contract to pursue other opportunities. Darke will be on-site to do play-by-play of the World Cup opener (Brazil vs. Croatia), the World Cup final, and other matches in between including every USMNT match.

“I am thrilled to be covering another World Cup for ESPN, particularly in such a fanatical hotbed of the sport as Brazil,” Darke said in a statement. “The venues mean the match windows will be ideal for the ever increasing and passionate community of soccer fans in the USA, who will see every minute of every game.”

Since joining ESPN, Darke has been behind the mic for many memorable soccer moments, including Landon Donovan’s goal for the USMNT against Algeria, Abby Wambach’s equalizer against Brazil in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, and Sergio Aguero’s English Premier League title winning goal for Manchester City in May 2012.

QUICK KICKS

Real Madrid have signed midfielder Xabi Alonso to a contract extension to keep him at the club through 2016. (REPORT)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain advanced in the Coupe de France, 5-2, against Stade Brestois. (REPORT)

Manchester City routed West Ham United, 6-0, in the first leg of the League Cup semifinals. Alvaro Negredo scored a hat-trick. (REPORT)

Atletico Madrid defender Juanfran had his yellow card suspension rescinded after an appeal to remove the yellow card was accepted by the Spanish Professional League. (REPORT)

Portugal will take on fellow World Cup side Cameroon in a friendly match in Lille, France on March 5. (REPORT)

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What do you think of this news? Do you expect Messi to start against Atletico? Do you see Europe ever moving to a summer schedule? Glad to see Ian Darke given the lead broadcaster position?

Share your thoughts below.

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14 Responses to Wednesday Evening Ticker: Messi marks return with brace; Bayern chairman favors schedule shift; and more

  1. El Paso tx says:

    The schedule change in Europe of March to November sounds like bologna.
    Why in the world would they change their schedule? Just because of Qatar and Germany’s top dog. I understand Germany has crazy winters but not England, France, Portugal, Spain.
    What about the hot humid muggy weather that players hate, like in MLS. Players have said, I would rather play in cold than hot temperatures.
    Why not give your season a real winter break. For example is MLS goes for the popular schedule, MLS would start in late august, break around December and come back during Super Bowl weekend or after.
    During the winter break, have a mini tournament in Hawaii and other warm markets that don’t have a MLS, like Tucson and Jacksonville or San Diego.
    Then finish in May and have all your MLS friendlies versus European teams. MLS can even have an MLS super cup, MLS champion versus prior champion.
    Another thing, summer is for traveling and working longer hours and summer school for college people and I think summers hurt MLS due to all the summer fun and people working longer hours.

    • slowleftarm says:

      I don’t know how they do things in El Paso but generally people work less in the summer and go on more vacations. I think playing in summer sounds like a great idea.

    • Chicago Pete says:

      Ever been to Chicago or Toronto or Phily or New York or Colombus in February? You cannot play right after the Super Bowl. Maybe start in the beginning of March with all of the above teams playing the first few games on the road. I am all for modeling the European leaues but if you want people to come to these stadiums, super cold weather is not the way to go.

      • RAMONE says:

        MLS’s weather issue is that we have extremes of weather no matter what choice you make. Other than the west coast cities (Vancouver down to LA) the rest of the country has serious winter and summer weather.

        Yes, I suppose we could make NY, NJ, NE, CHI, COL, TOR, MTL, STL, SLC, PHI play all of their games on the road from 11/30 to 3/1 but if I am a fan of one of those teams I wouldn’t like it. As a Timbers fan, I certainly wouldn’t like the league telling me that the games I enjoy the most … the ones in June/July/August/September, when I can show up in shorts and a Tshirt are going to be non-existant (part of that would be off season) to few and far between (these are the months when cold weather cities would get an unbalanced number of home games so my team would be playing 75+% on the road) in exchange for more games in February when it is 35 degrees and raining sideways.

        I think it is funny also this “complex” we American fans get about the FIFA schedule. Yes, if you live in a hot climate you think it sounds OK … if you live in a cold climate, it sounds crazy. Russia changed to the FIFA calendar but they effectively play exactly the same months as MLS because they take a break from 12/1 to 3/1 then resume their season. Their off season is then extremely truncated. Norway and Sweden don’t follow the FIFA calendar either. This entire “you must fall in line” to be taken seriously is silly – it would not change a thing with regard to league quality. The only change is having bigger scheduling problems with balance (and thus having fans dislike it more) and having to reschedule more games due to cold weather.

      • RAMONE says:

        Whoops, that was meant as a reply to el paso, not your Pete.

  2. $16M Montero move says:

    “During the winter break, have a mini tournament in Hawaii and other warm markets that don’t have a MLS, like Tucson and Jacksonville or San Diego.?”

    Maybe even El Paso?

    • El Paso tx says:

      Exactly, I left my hometown out because people always talk bad about El Paso tx when I mention El Paso tx as a soccer city. We practically never have winter, coldest temperature of the year during the day is about 40 and that’s if we get a cold front.

    • William the Terror says:

      Bill: you hocked a Hatori Hanzo sword?

      Budd: Yep.

      Bill: It was priceless.

      Budd: Well, not in El Paso, it ain’t. In El Paso, I got me 250 dollars for it.

  3. dude1 says:

    Messi is back, and scoring goals.

    Thank God this day isn’t all about Michael Bradley, that @#$%’s just depressing.

  4. Jimmy says:

    Sir Ian Drake FTW

  5. Nandez says:

    Stoke City are apparently close to getting Agudelo with the help of Anderlecht. The plan is to sign Juan then Ship him off to belgium and loan him to Anderlecht. Oh stoke america. Iceman should sign with Stoke best option at the moment. If Sunderland get relegated Stoke should swoop in for Jozy.