Thursday, April 8, 2010


LIONEL MESSI has sent a chilling warning to England ahead of the World Cup and admitted: I can still get better.

The Barcelona superstar is already hailed as the man who can overtake Diego Maradona as the greatest player of all time.

Messi's four-goal super show in the 4-1 Champions League quarter-final thrashing of Arsenal has captured the world's imagination two months before the World Cup kicks off.

Barca's World Player of the Year has scored 26 goals in 27 La Liga matches this season and eight in nine Champions League showings.

Messi, 22, said: "I'm so happy with the victory against Arsenal and how the game went but I know I have to keep improving.

"I am so lucky to have a dressing room where everybody loves me and supports me and always say beautiful things about me but as I say, I want to keep growing as a player."

Under Argentina chief Maradona's guidance, the Barca ace has failed to reproduce his club form at international level.

And Fabio Capello, along with the bosses of Spain, Brazil and Germany, will be desperately hoping Messi's slump continues to suffer in South Africa this summer.

Pep Guardiola's Barca gave Arsene Wenger's Gunners a harsh footballing lesson over the two games, yet it was Tuesday night's resounding second-leg that stunned the world.

The Catalan giants dominated possession and are on course to become the first side to win the Champions League back-to-back.

Messi said: "I am not the one making history - it's this team, our Barca, that is writing history.

"This is my first hat-trick in the Champions League so that is a special memory."

The Argentinian's Nou Camp masterclass set up a mouth-watering semi-final with Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan.

Messi demolished Arsenal with a left-foot stunner, a cunning right-foot chip, a jaw-dropping lob and a blaster through keeper Manuel Almunia's legs.

The visitors had dared to take the lead through Nicklas Bendtner after 19 minutes - and paid a heavy price. It was Messi's third hat-trick in the last month.

When he heard Wenger branded him 'PlayStation', Messi's face broke out in a childish grin.

The Barca assassin added: "We knew we had to win in front of 95,000 people. We started badly but finished in a spectacular fashion. It was so emotional to feel the joy of our fans.

"In the first one I had the luck to get the rebound, then I had a head- to-head... I don't know which one was the hardest but they went in and that is what counts.

"I feel so happy. It's always beautiful to score goals and more so in important games like against Arsenal."

As Barca prepare to lock horns with Real Madrid on Saturday, comparisons will be made between Messi and Real's former Manchester United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

There are striking similarities but also chaotic differences.

The Portuguese winger claimed last summer that he is worth more than the world record £80million Madrid paid to lure him from Old Trafford.


And with Barca and Real level on points at the top of La Liga, Messi v Ronaldo is shaping up to be a heart-stopping duel at the Bernabeu.

What defines Messi is his modesty and sense of team spirit.

He paid tribute to injured team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who banged in a priceless double in the 2-2 first-leg draw at the Emirates but missed the second leg with a foot problem.

Messi said: "The other day it was Ibra who did it and at the Nou Camp it was me.

"The important thing is not who does it but that the team does it. That is the way we should continue thinking and is the mentality that we've shown in recent games.

"The important thing is that the team can continue winning and I can continue in the same way too but we have to continue working very hard.

"There's a lot left in the Champions League and also La Liga. Now we have a massive game against Madrid. It's very difficult to repeat this against Madrid. The important thing is for us to be able to win 1-0."

Messi's team-mate Dani Alves was adamant that Barca's stars love all the talk about the Argentina ace's abundant ability - because they cannot stop it themselves.

The Brazil star said: "We never get fed up talking about him. It's not just the media who talk about him all the time - we do too among ourselves.

"We are totally in agreement with journalists and we are amazed at the form he is in and his greatness.

"It doesn't annoy anyone that everyone talks about him because we know he's a special lad.

"He's a marvellous lad. We're so happy people talk about him.

"I speak about him because we have him and we see him every day. He conquers your heart every day.

"He's always in a great mood and works harder than anybody giving a terrific example to each and every one of us.

"I am truly delighted for him. He's the best."


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