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Rediff.com  » Sports » Champions League Images: Brilliant Messi compared to sporting greats

Champions League Images: Brilliant Messi compared to sporting greats

Last updated on: March 18, 2010 10:19 IST

Messi leads Barcelona into quarter-finals

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Lionel Messi earned himself comparisons with sporting greats Diego Maradona and Michael Jordan after the Barcelona forward's brilliant performance in the Champions League on Wednesday.

After scoring a hat-trick against Valencia in La Liga on Sunday, Messi netted twice and helped create another to inspire Barca to a 4-0 win over VfB Stuttgart at the Nou Camp and send the holders through to the quarter-finals 5-1 on aggregate.


Image: Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring

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'He is certainly one of the best in the world'

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"I think he is certainly one of the best in the world and people are right to make comparisons with Diego Maradona," Stuttgart coach Christian Gross told a news conference.

"It's amazing when you think he is still only 22-years-old. He's just a fantastic player," he added.


Image: Diego Maradona with Lionel Messi

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'We wouldn't swap him for anyone'

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Argentina forward Messi also earned effusive praise from Barca coach Pep Guardiola. "The best players are always in the thick of the action," Guardiola told a news conference.

"(Michael) Jordan did it with the Bulls, (Kobe) Bryant does it with the Lakers and Leo does it here. We want him to stay with us because he's the best and we wouldn't swap him for anyone," he added.


Image: Pep Guardiola reacts after Messi scored

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The perfectionist

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Messi's first goal came in the 13th minute when the FIFA World Player of the Year raced at the Stuttgart defence and smashed the ball past Jens Lehmann into the roof of the net.

His perfectly-weighted pass nine minutes later set Yaya Toure free on the left to cross for Pedro to score Barca's second and Messi struck again on the hour with a clinical drive from the edge of the penalty area.

They were his seventh and eighth goals in his last four matches in all competitions.


Image: Messi reacts after scoring

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Bordeaux sneak through to quarters

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Girondins Bordeaux survived a second-half scare to grab a 2-1 win over Olympiakos Piraeus on Wednesday and give France a second team in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Bordeaux, leading 1-0 from the first leg, went further clear through an early Yoann Gourcuff free kick and with the visitors down to 10 men from the 60th minute they appeared to have the tie firmly in hand.

The Greek side levelled through Kostas Mitroglou in the 65th minute and Bordeaux were reeling when captain Alou Diarra was sent off three minutes later.


Image: Yoann Gourcuff celebrates after scoring

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'We just hope to avoid Barcelona'

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Bordeaux held their nerve, though, and a goal from Marouane Chamakh two minutes from time sealed a 3-1 aggregate win that took them through along with Olympique Lyon -- the first time France have had two teams in the quarter-finals since 2004.

"We made it hard for ourselves in the second half," Gourcuff told French TV channel Canal Plus. "But we had a fantastic first half, we should actually have been 2-0 or 3-0 up at the break."

"Now, we just hope to avoid Barcelona," coach Laurent Blanc told reporters.


Image: Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc

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