Lionel Messi the best ever player - Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola described striker Lionel Messi as "the best ever" after his five-goal haul against Bayer Leverkusen.
Messi, 24, moved to within seven of the total recorded by the club's all-time record scorer Cesar Rodriguez as he led Barca to a 10-2 aggregate win.
"Messi is the best ever. I played in a great LFC team of the late 70s and early 80s which ruled Europe but I must say i think this Barcelona team would batter us." Former Liverpool midfielder Terry McDermott
"Messi is a joke. For me the best ever." Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney
"Fella's a genius! Best ever by a distance in my lifetime! Never really saw Pele." Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker
"Not old enough to see some of the greats but I can't believe anyone can have played the game of football as well as Messi." Manchester United striker Michael Owen
"He's the best [ever], there is no other like him,'' Guardiola said.
"The numbers speak for themselves. One day he'll score six. We'll never see a player like him again.''
The Spaniard added: "We witnessed one of Messi's special nights tonight, it's a gift and I will always be able to say that I coached him.
"The only credit I can take is that I always put him in the team and we just try to make sure he gets the ball. After that our task is done.
"The throne belongs to him and only he will decide when he wants to relinquish it."
Messi has scored 186 goals in his last 201 Barcelona appearances, including strikes in both the 2009 and 2011 Champions League final wins over Manchester United, and Guardiola admits that he is lucky to have him.
"We're very fortunate to have Messi, so we have to take advantage of him," he added.
"He is one-of-a-kind. But the important thing was to advance. The result after that was a consequence of our play."
Former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas - now a team-mate of Messi's at the Nou Camp - is in no doubt that the Argentine is the best player ever.
"From him you expect anything," Fabregas said.
"He is the best player in football's history and we've never seen anyone like him.
MESSI BY NUMBERS
- Messi has scored 228 goals in 311 games for Barcelona, 188 in his last 201, and 53 in 49 games for club and country this season
- Messi has scored 17 hat-tricks for Barcelona and one for Argentina
- Messi has equalled the record for most goals in a Champions League season - 12 - held by himself and Ruud van Nistelrooy
"He came in fresh after missing the game at the weekend and we are very happy to have him in our team.
"We have Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta, so many players who in their position are the best in the world, we have so many options."
Bayer Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt could only watch on as Messi destroyed his in-form side - who had beaten Bayern Munich at the weekend.
Leverkusen started well but wilted under relentless attacks as Messi became the first player to score five goals in the European Cup since Soren Lerby did so for Ajax against Omonia Nicosia in 1979.
TOP SCORERS IN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
- Raul : 71
- Ruud van Nistelrooy : 56
- Thierry Henry : 50
- Lionel Messi : 49
"His class is just extraordinary, there's no discussion," Dutt said.
"Without Messi, Barca are the best team and with him, they are in another galaxy."
Messi himself was in modest mood following the win, after taking his record to 30 goals in his last 25 Champions League games.
"The important thing is what the team did and that we qualified for the next round," he said.
"It's nice to score five but winning was the priority."