Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone joined his managerial counterpart, Ernesto Valverde, in lauding Lionel Messi following Barcelona's 1-0 win on Sunday afternoon, eveb insisting if he had the player within his ranks, the scoreline would have been very different.
The attacker, once again, helped his side take a huge leap towards securing the Primera Division title on Sunday by netting the only goal of the game as Barca, somewhat tentatively, opened up an eight-point lead over at the top of La Liga.
Despite seeing much of the ball in the first-half, Blaugrana struggled to break the resilient Atleti defence down, and may not have at all had it not been for yet another moment of magic from the Argentine.
As the clock signalled the midway point of the opening 45 minutes, the 30-year-old stepped up and slotted home his third free-kick in as many games, marking his 600th career goal as well as bringing up Barca's century of strikes for the season.
As the ball hit the back of the net, the Camp Nou bellowed Messi's name, and both managers heaped praise on the attacking ace following the contest, with Atleti boss Simeone even insisting he was the sole difference between the two sides on the day.
“If Messi had been wearing an Atlético shirt, we would have won”, the 47-year-old told his post-match press conference, as quoted by The Guardian.
Messi scored his 600th goal to beat Atletico and surely clinch La Liga for @FCBarcelona. If he were just a goal scorer it would be astonishing, but the fact he’s also the best dribbler I’ve ever seen and as good a passer as I’ve ever seen makes him the best I’ve ever seen. 🐐— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 4, 2018
His opposite number, Valverde, said: “There’s no one like him in the world. I don’t know what would have happened [if he’d been on the other team] nor do I want to imagine it.”
That single dead-ball moment, which may well go down as a defining one in history, was made for Messi, and as expected, he did not disappoint.
The creative magician has enjoyed one of his most influential seasons so far and is on course to secure his eighth league title during his time in Catalonia, with the treble another very realistic proposition.