Pique: Messi is the best ever
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has described Lionel Messi as "the best player in the history of the sport" after the Argentinian set a new goalscoring record for the Catalan club in last night's 5-3 La Liga win over Granada at the Camp Nou.
Messi equalled the mark of 232 official goals set by Cesar Rodriguez during the 1940s and '50s when he slotted home Isaac Cuenca's cross in the 17th minute, and then secured the record outright in the 68th minute when he lobbed the ball over Granada goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
The 24-year-old completed his hat-trick - his eighth of the season for Barcelona - in the 86th minute after rounding Julio Cesar and slamming the ball into the roof of the net. The three-time FIFA World Player of the Year has scored 48 goals in 40 games for the Catalan giants this season.
While manager Pep Guardiola likened Messi to basketball's Michael Jordan, Pique claimed he has no equal in football. He told the club's official website: "It's a pleasure to be in the same generation as him. I believe he's the best player in the history of the sport.
"I've been lucky enough to be on the same team as him, I consider myself privileged. It doesn't matter where he plays, if it's cold or hot, he always proves that he's the best."
Barça goalkeeper Victor Valdes echoed Pique's sentiments, saying: "Messi will mark an era. He'll be the best ever."
Isaac Cuenca added: "Leo Messi is amazing, he's the best in the world and he proves it on a daily basis. For me, he's the best ever. It will take years to see someone else do something similar to what Messi does. We have to enjoy him and his plays."
Victory lifted Barça to within five points of leaders Real Madrid at the top of La Liga, although Jose Mourinho's side can restore their eight-point advantage with victory at struggling Villarreal tonight. Pique admits that while they are happy with their own performances, the club's title aspirations are out of their hands.
"The team is very motivated and we're on a good trajectory, with great football. At times we play at a high level and that reinforces us in the Liga and in other competitions. The Liga [title] is difficult to win and we don't depend on ourselves."