Lionel Messi stands out from the crowd because of his ability to read the game and not because of his magical footwork, Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said as the Argentine continues another record-breaking season.
Messi became the highest scorer in La Liga history in November and he has been an unstoppable force since Christmas, helping Barca to move a point clear of Real Madrid ahead of their Clasico on Sunday.
The Argentine has scored 32 goals in La Liga, two more than Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and he has his sights set on beating his own record of 50 in a season.
Despite all the landmarks, Luis Enrique is more impressed with Messi’s footballing brain.
“There are other players that have produced figures that are similar to him,” Luis Enrique told a news conference.
“What makes him really different is the way that he can interpret the play, make the right pass, know when to defend and generally read the game.”
Luis Enrique had a much publicised bust-up with Messi at the start of January when the coach was unhappy with the player’s attitude after returning late from his Christmas break.
Since then, however, the pair appear to have patched up their differences and Messi has been playing some of the best football of his career.
He has been the talisman as Barca have won 17 of their last 18 games and the Catalan club will be eager to capitalise on recent stumbles by Real, who have won only one of their last three league games.
Luis Enrique has warned his players against complacency since Real are capable of snatching back the initiative thanks to the wealth of talent they have at their disposal.
“(Cristiano) Ronaldo, (Gareth) Bale and (Karim) Benzema have a very high level, among the best in the world, and don’t need to be on their top form to be decisive. They are a real danger for the team,” he said.
“There is no favourite for this game. Both teams have the same objectives during the season and there is no doubt about the quality of the players. Playing at home is an advantage for us as it motivate the players and hopefully that will work in our favour.”