Argentina striker Lionel Messi has been granted Spanish citizenship and is now free to play for Barcelona in the Primera Liga.
The 18-year-old had been restricted to appearances in the Champions League this season after doubts were raised over his status as an “assimilated player” in Spain.
It had been assumed that, because he joined the club as a 13-year-old he would automatically be deemed an assimilated EU player.
Under Spanish Football Federation rules, each Primera Liga club is allowed only three non-European Union players in their squad and with Barca’s three berths occupied by Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o, Mexican defender Rafael Marquez and Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho, there was no opportunity for Messi.
Messi extended his contract with Barcelona for the second time in three months just over a week ago, and is committed to the club until 2014.