Barça stars bask in glory
© AFP

Lionel Messi played down his magical UEFA Champions League final performance after helping Barcelona cement their status as the greatest team of their era against Manchester United at Wembley.

Messi continued his march towards the pantheon of all-time greats with a mesmeric display on the biggest club stage of them all last night as Barça romped to a 3-1 victory that gave them their fourth European Cup and third in six years. Messi, who scored a stunning solo goal - his first on English soil for his club - was named man of the match.

But he said: "To be the man of the match is the least important thing, because it was incredible how we played. We were very good in all areas. We're very happy to lift another trophy. It was a difficult season but we showed who we are. We were the better team."

We put on a spectacle for everyone who is passionate about football and who loves football.
Dani Alves, Barcelona defender

Messi's 12th goal of this season's competition equalled Ruud van Nistelrooy's Champions League record and team-mate Xavi said: "He is the No1, he makes the difference - he is just the best player in the world."

Tribute was also paid to left-back Eric Abidal, who was given the honour of lifting the European Cup two months after undergoing surgery to remove a liver tumour. Right-back Dani Alves said: "Even before all of this, we said our biggest victory, our most important trophy, was the recovery of Abi.

"We put on a spectacle for everyone who is passionate about football and who loves football. And I think that people who really like football will be very happy today because they have seen a great match."

Midfielder Sergio Busquets agreed, describing it as an "almost perfect game" by Barça, who repeated their 2009 triumph over United. As in Rome two years ago, Sir Alex Ferguson's men were unable to maintain a blistering start to the game, while a late rally also came to nothing.

I think it was an almost perfect game - we had lots of possession and moved the ball very well. Thanks to that we managed to win.
Sergio Busquets, Barcelona midfielder

Busquets said: "We suffered a bit at the beginning, and at the end, but by then the match was already decided. I think it was an almost perfect game - we had lots of possession and moved the ball very well. Thanks to that we managed to win."

Barça's win came at the scene of their first European Cup triumph 19 years earlier. David Villa, who finished the contest with more than 20 minutes remaining with a wonderful 25-yard curler, said: "I couldn't be happier. It's a fantastic result for us in what is such an important stadium in our club's history.

"We were full of ambition and wanted to take full advantage of this era with all the great players we have. When we went 3-1 up, it meant we could play calmly. It's now time to celebrate with all my family."