Pain-free Messi ready for the challenge in 2014
The four-time World Player of the Year made his first appearance since early November as a substitute just after the hour mark with Barca leading 2-0 thanks to a Cesc Fabregas double.
And it didn`t take long for the Argentine to make his mark as he slotted home from close range before registering his 16th goal of the season with a trademark solo run and finish in stoppage time.
"I had a lot of time out and I felt very good in the training sessions that I had, but playing in a competitive game in completely different," he told Barca TV.
"More than the goals, I feel very good physically and I have been able to play without any pain so I am obviously very happy."
After undergoing the first period of his recovery process in Barcelona, Messi travelled to Argentina to continue his recuperation in December.
There will be high expectations placed upon the 26-year-old over the next seven months as he spearheads Barca`s campaign to win trophies on three fronts before leading his country at the World Cup in Brazil.
But after a significant period on the sidelines, he insisted he is just happy to be back playing again.
"I am very happy. I was able to spend a lot of time in my country with my family and friends and to get away from everything.
"But now I am back I am excited and desperate to have a great year.
"I want to keep achieving things, to contribute to our play, help my teammates and hopefully we can achieve our objectives.
"They will be five very tough months, but we will fight to win everything, as we always do at this club, and then I can think about the national team."
Next up for Barcelona is a crucial top of the table clash with Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon on Saturday.
The Catalans had always hoped that Messi would be fit to play some part in the Spanish capital, but he said it will be up to Barca coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino whether he starts at the weekend.
"I will speak with Tata and he is the one that will decide, but right now I don`t know," he said.
"No one is irreplaceable. I watched the games at home and they were very impressive. Whoever plays in this squad they always respond to the challenge."
Messi did though confirm that he will definitely attend Monday`s Ballon d`Or ceremony in Zurich.
For the seventh consecutive year Messi will be amongst the top three for the prize that crowns the world`s best player.
However, he insisted that winning for a fifth consecutive year is not top of his priority list.
"I will go, as always. It is a pleasure to be amongst the top three no matter what the result is.
"For me the most important things are the titles you win as a group, but it is always a great compliment to be nominated for what the award represents."
AFP ------------------------- ZEENEWS.com