Lionel Messi gave a new
meaning to the phrase 'Hand of God' when he netted a Champions
League record five goals in Barcelona's 7-1 demolition of Bayer
Leverkusen on Wednesday.
The Argentina forward has always had to endure comparisons
with his compatriot Diego Maradona, who coined the famous phrase
after using his fist to score a goal that helped knock England
out of the 1986 World Cup.
"La manita de Dios" (the little hand of God) was the front
page headline on sports dailies Marca and Mundo Deportivo on
Thursday, as local media scrambled to find new ways to describe
the 24-year-old's latest goal-scoring feat.
World Player of the Year Messi netted five and youth team
winger Tello added two more as the holders crushed the German
side 10-2 on aggregate to sweep into their fifth consecutive
Champions League quarter-final.
At the end of the match at the Nou Camp, Barca fans waved
one hand aloft, open with all the fingers spread wide, in the
sign of 'la manita' while they chanted his name.
"The 75,632 spectators that saw it live will be able to say
'I was there'," sports daily AS wrote.
"Like when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a [NBA]
game, when Muhammad Ali beat Sonny Liston, or when Bob Beamon
flew [in the long jump] at the Mexico Olympics."
Speaking at the Global Sports Forum in Barcelona on
Thursday, former France and Manchester United striker Eric
Cantona was asked about Messi's performance.
"I have always thought that Barca's play was incredible but
Messi is exceptional," Cantona said.
"He retains an almost childlike enthusiasm for the game and
you can see that when he is playing in front of thousands of
people there are moments when he feels like a great star.
"The great players are those who retain the ingenuity of the
Both coaches, Barca's Pep Guardiola and Leverkusen's Robin
Dutt showered praise on Messi's display as did his team-mates.
"It's not only that he scored goals, but they weren't easy
either. They were fantastic goals and that's what makes it even
more special," Spain and Barca midfielder Cesc Fabregas told
On Twitter, Atletico Madrid's Columbia striker Radamel
Falcao said: "Was it a Champions League game or one on
Playstation? If he scored six would he get two match balls?"
England and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney wrote:
"Messi is a joke. For me the best ever."
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