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Messi comes back with 'eyes of a killer'

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BARCELONA, Spain -- Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino says Lionel Messi has returned from his injury layoff with the "eyes of a killer," although he has left his star forward off the squad for today's league game.

Martino says "from what I see (Messi) is excited to play, he is fit, with the eyes of a killer," but he still "lacks playing time."

Messi trained with his teammates this week for the first time since tearing his left hamstring in November, having spent time in Argentina doing rehab.

While Messi continues to improve his fitness, goalkeeper Victor Valdes made the squad for today's game against Elche. Valdes hasn't played for six weeks since injuring a right leg muscle.

Xavi Hernandez is also back from injury, while Dani Alves is out with a fever.

Bayern signs Lewandowski

MUNICH, Germany -- Bayern Munich signed Robert Lewandowski from Bundesliga rival Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer on Saturday, with the deal taking effect at the end of the season.

Bayern announced in a statement that Lewandowski, who pushed for a move to the Bavarian powerhouse last summer, signed a five-year deal through June 2019 that will take effect from July 1.

The 25-year-old Poland striker underwent a medical with Bayern team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt on Saturday before both parties -- Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge with sporting director Matthias Sammer, and Lewandowski with his agents Cezary Kucharski and Maik Barthel -- signed the deal.

"We are very satisfied this transfer worked out for us," Rummenigge said. "Lewandowski is one of the best strikers in the world. He will strengthen Bayern's squad and give us another push. We are very happy that a five-year deal to 2019 was signed."

Lewandowski has 65 goals in 115 Bundesliga games since joining Dortmund in 2010, with 11 scored this season.

Dortmund declined the opportunity to let the forward leave for a transfer fee last summer, after the club failed to reach an agreement following efforts to extend his four-year contract.

"He scores important goals for us, works extremely hard and is, in our eyes, a player that we couldn't replace at all during the summer. Not on our financial capabilities," Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke told the Sueddeutschen Zeitung newspaper.

Lewandowski is the second key player to leave Dortmund for Bayern since the sides met in the Champions League final last May, with Germany attacking midfielder Mario Goetze's signing also announced well in advance of his eventual move.

Petkovic contests canning

ROME -- Lazio says it has fired Vladimir Petkovic and rehired Edy Reja as coach, although Petkovic is contesting the sacking.

The Roman club made the announcement on its website Saturday, saying that Petkovic's contract had been terminated for "just cause," after it was announced last month that the Bosnian had agreed to coach Switzerland's national team after this year's World Cup.

However, Petkovic hoped to stay on with Lazio until the end of the season and claims he is owed 600,000 euros (about $800,000). His lawyers say they will take the matter to court.

Petkovic guided Lazio to the Italian Cup title last season in his first year in charge.

The 68-year-old Reja first coached Lazio from 2010 to 2012.

Lazio is tied for ninth and plays Inter Milan on Monday.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 5, 2014 B16

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