- After stunner against FC Barcelona, fastest man on Earth Usain Bolt hails Gareth BaleFC Barcelona loses Carles Puyol to injury for Bilbao gameFor FC Barcelona fall, Gerardo Martino defends Lionel Messi, blames selfLionel Messi winner maintains Barcelona's slim chances of retaining La Liga title
field in his career.
The 26-year-old appeared in court in September over tax fraud allegations relating to his image rights, whilst the arrival of Brazilian star Neymar at Barcelona this season has challenged his position as top dog at the club.
Messi was also struck down by persistent hamstring injuries during the first-half of the season and returned to Argentina for a month in December to rest and recuperate away from the spotlight in the Catalan capital.
He hit the ground running on his return including a run of 17 goals in 12 games as Barca ousted Manchester City from the Champions League and brought themselves back into the La Liga title race with a 4-3 win at Real Madrid thanks to a Messi hat-trick.
However, his threat was blunted by Atletico as Barcelona bowed out before the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in seven years and in Barca's defeat to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final last month.
Once Saturday's title-decider with Atletico is out of the way, Messi's focus will turn to his quest to win the first major trophy of his career at international level as he captains Argentina at the World Cup in Brazil next month.