FC Barcelona super-striker Lionel Messi said Saturday he was doing very well in his recovery from a hamstring injury and that the "countdown" for his return to action at the start of 2014 had begun.
"Medically I'm doing very well and now the countdown is underway," the Argentine wrote on Tencent Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. He also posted some photos of his recovery work.
The latest medical bulletin from Argentina's soccer federation confirmed that Messi's injury had fully healed and that on Monday he would begin the third stage of his rehab work in his hometown of Rosario.
Messi, who sustained the injury during a Spanish-league game on Nov. 10 against Betis, will now begin fitness exercises with a view to returning to training with his Barcelona teammates on Jan. 2.
In his absence, the Blaugrana have gone 2-1 in La Liga matches, routing Granada 4-0 on Nov. 23 and edging Villarreal 2-1 on Dec. 14 but losing a 1-0 contest to Athletic Bilbao on Dec. 1.
Barça is currently tied with Atletico Madrid for first place in La Liga.
Barcelona lost its first Champions League game without Messi, a 2-1 defeat to Amsterdam club Ajax, but the club rebounded to trounce Scotland's Celtic 6-1 to wrap up first place in Group H.
Messi has time to get in form for the Spanish powerhouse's Champions League round of 16 home-and-away matches against England's Manchester City, scheduled for Feb. 18 and March 12.