Barca players laud menacing Messi

MADRID - Lionel Messi's Barcelona team-mates lavished extravagant praise on the Argentina forward after his sublime hat-trick fired the champions to a 3-0 win over third-placed Valencia in La Liga on Sunday.

The 22-year-old FIFA World Player of the Year broke the deadlock in the 56th minute at the Nou Camp with a trademark weaving run and clinical finish and struck two more late on to take his league tally for the season to 22.

"Messi seems to have no limit and we hope he carries on like this," Barca's Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta told reporters.

"We are finding it hard to score goals and getting forward with a player like Leo can be the deciding factor in the match," he added. "Hopefully we'll be able to continue speaking so well about Messi."

Barca's Argentine central defender Gabriel Milito said: "In tight matches Messi pops up and does what only he can." Forward Pedro added: "Leo played a great match and scored three magnificent goals."

Messi's triple came on the same day as his Argentina team mate Gonzalo Higuain bagged a hat-trick for Real Madrid that kept them above Barca at the top of the standings on goal difference and the pair's superb form bodes well for Diego Maradona's side at the World Cup in South Africa.

"I am very pleased with the triumph and for the way the team played in the second half and also for the three goals," Messi told reporters, adding that he dedicated one of the goals to the daughter of his cousin who was born recently.

"I am focusing on continuing like this for the good of the team and not for individual awards," he said.

"The whole team played well, especially in the second half when we pressured them and kept the ball."

Holders Barca play Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart in their Champions League last-16 second-leg on Wednesday after the first leg in Germany ended 1-1.

NEWS: Barca president hails Messi magic

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