Messi makes early Barcelona return

Barcelona welcomed Lionel Messi back earlier than expected on Thursday as the diminutive forward began his preparations for the new season.

Lionel Messi is ready and raring to go for the new Liga season after returning to Barcelona five days ahead of schedule on Thursday.

The Argentina international was not due back with his club until Monday after helping his country reach the Copa America final last month.

However, Messi was present to undergo - and pass - medical checks at Camp Nou alongside fellow countryman Javier Mascherano and Brazil duo Neymar and Dani Alves.

Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen also made an early return to the club after playing for Germany in the Under-21 European Championships, but Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo will return on Monday as planned.

The quartet's return could see them all feature in this weekend's final pre-season friendly against Fiorentina in the International Champions Cup.