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Magical Messi shows his masterclass

Last updated on: March 23, 2010 12:04 IST

Messi at his sublime best

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Lionel Messi provided yet more sublime evidence on Sunday that he is the best player in the world with a devastating hat-trick for Barcelona that will have Champions League and World Cup rivals on full alert.

The 22-year-old Argentine forward netted his second consecutive La Liga hat-trick to single-handedly guide his side to a 4-2 victory over a stunned Real Zaragoza.

Messi's latest masterclass - a nonchalant header, a mazy run reminiscent of Diego Maradona in his prime, and a beautifully struck shot - prompted club president Joan Laporta to hail him as the best the game had ever seen.


Image: Lionel Messi
Photographs: Reuters
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'He is the best player in the history of football'

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The goals made it 11 scored in his last five matches in all competitions and he even had the generosity to let Zlatan Ibrahimovic take a penalty after another of his twisting runs ended with a foul in the Zaragoza area.

"He is the best player in the world and in the history of football," Laporta told Canal Plus television.

"Along with Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona he is the best we have ever seen at Barcelona. He played a great game, he's a brilliant footballer, decisive in matches and plays for the team.

"He is Barcelona's leader. Furthermore, he thinks of his team-mates and after winning the penalty (at the end) let Zlatan Ibrahimovic take it."


Image: Lionel Messi

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His form will strike fear in the hearts of opposition players

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The World Player of the Year, who led Barca to a 3-0 victory at home to Valencia last weekend, opened the scoring at the Romareda with the coolest of headers angled through a crowd of players.

He followed up with a stunning solo effort which must have struck fear into the heart of any team that will face Argentina in the World Cup finals in South Africa this summer.

The World Cup is still far off, but Arsenal players will be the ones who'll be very afraid, especially after seeing the kind of form Messi is enjoying. He can cut through the defenses of the best teams in the world and will fancy his chances against the likes of William Gallas and Bacary Sagna.

The Champions League quarter-finals between Arsenal and Barcelona will be an exhibition of stylish football but all eyes will be in Messi, who shoulders the hopes of the Catalans.

On Sunday, he showed determination to battle and steal the ball in midfield, brilliantly controlling the ball as he accelerated towards the penalty area.


Image: Barcelona' Lionel Messi (centre) juggles past VfB Stuttgart's Sami Khedira (back) and Christian Traesch during their Champions League match last week

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Messi: The team man

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He jinked past one sliding tackle and once inside the area turned Matteo Contini one way, and then the other, before firing low into the far corner.

Messi struck his third from outside the area, a sweetly stroked left-foot shot that gave the goalkeeper no chance.

After Zaragoza struck back with two quick goals, he won Barca a late penalty as he forced a foul, twisting and turning in the area with the ball stuck to his foot.

Letting Ibrahimovic take the spot kick was particularly thoughtful as the Swedish striker had endured a torrid time in front of goal and was being taunted by the home fans.

"I let him take it so that he could end his poor run in front of goal," Messi said.

"Strikers live to score goals and he needed it. He's a great goal scorer."


Image: Lionel Messi

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