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Luis Enrique hails Messi as Barcelona's leader

Luis Enrique has lauded Lionel Messi as Barcelona's leader and "the best wherever he plays".

Messi inspired Barcelona to La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League last season, combining to thrilling effect with Neymar and Luis Suarez in a devastating attacking trio.

The 28-year-old's exploits earned him the fifth Ballon d'Or of a stellar career, although he has arguably played more of a supporting role this time around – with Suarez as Barcelona's chief marksman and Neymar scaling ever greater heights of trickery and ingenuity.

Speaking ahead of his team's Champions League round-of-16 first leg at Arsenal on Tuesday, Luis Enrique put that down to the selfless nature of a player who excels in every position.

"Last season he was unbelievable, he did pretty much everything – he scored, he had defensive sacrifice, he assisted," the coach said.

"He is at the same level or even better [this season]. My players are capable of reinventing themselves constantly.

"Lionel Messi, when he goes back to the midfield he is the best midfielder; when he is a striker he scores lots of goals.

"Now he is playing as a winger but he has freedom to go and have superiority all over the pitch.

"He is the best wherever he plays. He is our leader."