The club’s all-time leading goal scorer smiled behind a white face mask and wore a matching pair of gloves as he arrived at the academy complex to undergo swab tests for the deadly virus that has halted the Liga season for more than six weeks.

Striker Antoine Griezmann raised a peace sign to the cameras and appeared to have a plaster on his arm from giving a blood sample, carrying his belongings in a white plastic bag as he closed the door on his white Rolls-Royce.

Messi’s close friend and regular strike partner, Luis Suarez, was also seen arriving, and Frenkie de Jong offered a thumbs up as he made his way in.

Messi took to the treatment table this afternoon to be assessed and provide samples as Spanish football takes the first tentative steps towards what bosses hope will be an imminent return for the competition.

The resumption of matches could be impacted by any positive tests arising from the initial meetings at the training ground, which is normally also used by the club’s youth players and numerous other clubs, including basketball, handball and futsal teams.

Of 1,724 tests carried out on players in the German Bundesliga last week, 10 provided positive results for Covid-19 – although Messi, Suarez and friends provided no repeat of the footage that saw Schalke star Salomon Kalou suspended for filming tests taking place at the club amid apparent breaches of health guidelines.

No Barcelona players are known to have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but club vice-president Jordi Cardoner, director of medical services Ramon Canal and handball doctor Josep Antoni Gutierrez have all reportedly been diagnosed with the disease.

Messi and the rest of the Barca squad will keep their gloves on while working individually and in isolation as the academy becomes little more than a fitness centre for the players initially.

Once their test results are known, they may start to work in small groups before returning to full training in a bid to restore the sharpness they will require to complete their remaining 11 matches of the domestic season.

Writing on social media during the lockdown that was enforced in an attempt to protect people from Covid-19, Messi said he wanted to “send a lot of strength” to healthcare workers and those who had caught the disease, totaling more than 220,000 people in Spain to date.

“These are complicated days for everyone,” said the Argentine. “We live worried about what is happening.

“We want to help by removing ourselves from the places where those are having the worst of it, either because it directly affected them or their family and friends or because they are working on the front line to combat it in hospitals and health centres.”

Messi, who matched Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo’s donation of $1 million to relief efforts against Covid-19, has kept in touch with his Instagram following of more than 149 million by writing of his admiration for doctors and posting photos with his family during the pandemic.

While countries including France, Belgium and the Netherlands have canceled their seasons, Liga president Javier Tebas has warned that a similar move could cost the competition more than $1 billion and urged teams to start training.

“I do not understand why there would be more danger in playing football behind closed doors, with all precautionary measures, than working on an assembly line or being on a fishing boat on the high seas,” he suggested.

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