Image: Lionel Messi
JOSEP LAGO  /  AFP/Getty Images
FC Barcelona doesn’t want to release Argentinian player Lionel Messi for the Olympics, saying it wants him to play in the Champions League qualifier.
updated 7/24/2008 2:26:05 PM ET 2008-07-24T18:26:05

FC Barcelona captain Carles Puyol wants Lionel Messi to be playing for the team in its Champions League qualifying round next month and not travel with Argentina to the Beijing Olympics.

Barcelona has refused to release Messi for the Aug. 8-24 games despite the 21-year-old winger being named in Argentina's squad. FIFA said Wednesday that all clubs are obligated to release players aged 23 and under for the games.

The Spanish club plays the first leg of its Champions League qualifier on Aug. 12.

"We have a great squad, but Messi is an important player for us, one of the best in the world," Puyol said Thursday from the team's preseason training camp. "What's happening with his situation is a theme that we can't really get into since we can't control it. Let's hope it's resolved and that we can count on him being with us."

Barcelona sent a letter to FIFA on Thursday putting forward its argument in response to the governing body's statement. It also noted that the Argentine federation rejected an earlier proposal put forward by the club.

Barcelona said it had the support of Spain's Professional Football League and the European Clubs Association.

German clubs Schalke and Werder Bremen want to prevent their Brazilian players — Rafinha and Diego — from going to Beijing and have taken the case to sport's highest appeal body, the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Both clubs say they will accept its ruling.

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