FC Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has labelled Lionel Messi has the ‘best’ player he has seen after the Argentine forward spurred a 2-0 victory over Ajax Amsterdam that secured the Spanish side a place in the Champions League knockout stages.
Messi grabbed both goals for Barcelona as they struggled at Amsterdam Arena with the Spanish side put under pressure throughout the game.
“Is Messi the best player of all time? Absolutely. He is the best player I have ever seen as a player or as a coach”, Enrique said after Messi’s brace drew him level with Spanish great Raul for the most Champions League goals.
Messi’s goals, a 36th-minute header and a 76th-minute tap in, gave him 71 in the European competition and were the difference in the match.
“There was a big difference between the first half and the second”, Enrique said at a media conference.
“At certain moments Ajax managed to put us under pressure really well. After the break we tried to win the ball as far from our own goal as possible.”
Frank de Boer, who played alongside his Barcelona counterpart from 1999 to 2003, said his players can be proud of themselves for exerting pressure on the Catalan giants.
“It is a pity we didn’t reward ourselves for a good game from our side,” de Boer said.
“We showed we can compete at the highest level, and that is exactly what I wanted from my players.”
Barcelona are second in Group F on nine points, one behind Paris St Germain who beat APOEL Nicosia 1-0 in Paris.
Ajax remain third on two points, leaving them vying with APOEL for a Europa League place and de Boer said he knew that elimination from the Champions League was the most likely scenario before Wednesday’s loss.
“That was sort of clear already,” he said.
“We tried to stay in the competition as long as possible, but we’re playing against two Champions League favourites.”