Lionel Messi. COURTESY
Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman lauded Lionel Messi as the most important player in the club's history as the Argentine celebrated making a record-equalling 767th appearance for the Catalans on Monday. Scoring twice, Messi produced another vintage display as he equalled Xavi Hernandez's appearance record in Barca's 4-1 victory over La Liga basement club Huesca.
"What more can you say (about Messi)?" a beaming Koeman told reporters. His level over so many years, over so many games... he's the most important player in Barcelona's history and thank goodness he's still here with us. I think he's shown he's the best player in the world. The first goal he scored was fantastic, and he deserves to be the focal point of this team."
The result moved the Catalans to within four points of top spot as they chase down pace-setters Atletico Madrid. Teenager Pedri, who was called up to the Spain national team for the first time earlier on Monday, also praised Messi - a player he has been earmarked to succeed at the Nou Camp.
"To play alongside Leo is an absolute joy. I enjoy going to training everyday," said the 18-year-old. Whenever I get it, I try and pass to him because every time he touches the ball, something happens. It's absolutely crazy what he's achieving. He's the best player in the world."