BUENOS AIRES - Lionel Messi will one day
be regarded as the greatest footballer of all time, said
Argentina coach Sergio Batista after watching his two-goal
Champions League display for Barcelona against Real Madrid.
The second goal by Argentina's little left-footed genius in
Barca's 2-0 semi-final first leg win on Wednesday was
reminiscent of the dribbling Diego Maradona's spectacular effort
against England at the 1986 World Cup.
"We saw the Messi we all know and love. He's on his way to
becoming the best player in history," said Batista.
"Given what we already know and because he surpasses himself
day by day, he's already the best in the world," the coach told
Argentine radio station La Red.
"I left the stadium telling myself, 'Thank God players like
(Barca pair) Xavi and Messi exist'. They give you goose bumps,
they thrill anyone."
Batista lavished praise on Maradona, his captain in the team
that won the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, but said Messi was
capable of surpassing him.
As coach of Argentina at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa,
Maradona himself said "Messi has already surpassed me".
Mario Kempes, top scorer when Argentina won their first
World Cup title in 1978, said of the Barcelona player last year
"all he needs is to put the cherry on the cake which is the
Messi, 23, who has notched 52 goals in all competitions this
season, is admired around the world and nowhere more than his
home country where cafe chatter among football followers is
dominated by comparisons with the great Maradona.
After the 4-0 thrashing of Maradona's team by Germany in the
2010 quarter-finals, Argentina's fans are eyeing the 2014 finals
in Brazil hoping Messi will cement his place among the all-time
Barcelona's flowing, attacking game suits Messi perfectly
and Batista's plan is for Argentina to play like the Spanish
Alfredo Di Stefano, instrumental to Real's domination of the
European Cup between 1956-60, did not need a World Cup to be
regarded as the first in the line of true greats that contains
Pele, Johan Cruyff and Maradona.
Di Stefano played first for Argentina, then Spain in an era
of much less international football.
Messi may not get away with just his exploits for Barcelona
to enter the pantheon but will go close if he goes on to claim a
second Champions League winner's medal at Wembley next month.
He will also look to help Argentina win their first title in
18 years at the Copa America on home soil in July.
Perhaps Messi's father Jorge should be asked for a
prediction after his forecast for Wednesday's match proved spot
He told TyC Sports in an interview on Thursday: "I told
(Lionel) to go and enjoy the match, that Barcelona would win 2-0
and he'd score both goals".
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