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Wednesday September 28, 2005
MADRID: Spanish giants FC Barcelona received good news on Monday evening when rising star Lionel Messi informed the club that he had been granted Spanish nationality.
This means that the explosive 18-year-old should be able to play for Barcelona as a local player without occupying one of the three berths reserved for non-EU players.
I'm delighted at my nationality being finally resolved, said Messi after Monday's ceremony in which he vowed to respect the Spanish constitution.
This should mean that I can now play in Spain and in Europe, without any bureaucratic problems at all.
Messi has been unable to play in the Spanish Liga so far this season as Barcelona did not register him as a foreigner, and the Spanish federation refused to allow him to play as an assimilated foreigner youngster.
He did, however, play in Barca's Champions League debut away to Werder Bremen.
Now, thanks to his new Spanish passport, he will be able to feature on Saturday at home to Zaragoza.
Messi was born in Argentina but has resided with his family in Barcelona for six years. He has already made his full Argentina debut.
National coach Jose Pekerman, however, has made it clear to Messi that he would only enter into his World Cup plans if he was playing regular club football - which will now finally happen. dpa
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