Batista: Messi will be one of the greats

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 World Cup".

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 greats.

Barcelona's flowing, attacking game suits Messi perfectly and Batista's plan is for Argentina to play like the Spanish side.

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 on.

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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