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Dublin: 2 °C Tuesday 22 January, 2019

'That's why he's the best player of all time... He is total football'

Luis Enrique says Barcelona star Lionel Messi is history’s greatest player because he can adapt to any role in the team.

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi

LUIS ENRIQUE HAS described Lionel Messi as the embodiment of total football after he struck a record-breaking hat-trick in Barcelona’s thrashing of Celtic on Tuesday.

Messi became the first player to score three goals in a game for the sixth time in Europe’s top competition, as he inspired the home side to a 7-0 win over the Scottish champions at Camp Nou.

The Argentina star also turned provider for Luis Suarez’s second late on, and won the free-kick from which Neymar scored to make it 3-0 shortly after half-time.

And his coach believes his versatility across the pitch makes him unrivalled in the history of the sport.

“He plays everywhere because he has freedom,” Luis Enrique said afterwards. ”If you play him as a six, an eight or a 10, he’s the best in the world. It wouldn’t be clever to curtail that, to put limits on him.

That’s why he’s the best player of all time, without a doubt — for his numbers and his footballing vision. He is total football.”

Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved a penalty from Moussa Dembele after Messi had put Barca ahead, but the Spanish champions were otherwise untroubled as they dominated from start to finish.

Aside from giving up the spot-kick, Luis Enrique felt his team delivered a flawless performance that the fans deserved to witness in the wake of their shock 2-1 LaLiga loss to Alaves.

“We didn’t make any mistakes throughout the game, apart from one little one in the first half, where we conceded a penalty. Then the matter was settled,” he said.

It was spectacular from the start. We saw the team and all the fans having fun. It’s a good welcome to the Champions League.

“We were very good positionally during the match and we recovered the ball very quickly. That helped everyone to have fun, the players, the coaches and the fans, who deserve it the most.

“We have the fortune of having some fantastic players and they get better with every training session and every match. They’re so good with the quality they have, they find solutions when supposedly there’s no way through.”

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