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Stellar Messi hails 'incredible' Barcelona

Published: Sunday 29 May 2011, 3.00CET
Lionel Messi took the man-of-the-match plaudits yet was quick to hail an "incredible" FC Barcelona display as Josep Guardiola's men claimed a fourth European crown at Wembley.
by Simon Hart & Álvaro Macho
from Wembley

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Published: Sunday 29 May 2011, 3.00CET

Stellar Messi hails 'incredible' Barcelona

Lionel Messi took the man-of-the-match plaudits yet was quick to hail an "incredible" FC Barcelona display as Josep Guardiola's men claimed a fourth European crown at Wembley.

Forward Lionel Messi hailed an "incredible" performance by FC Barcelona after Josep Guardiola's men lit up Wembley en route to claiming their fourth European crown with victory against Manchester United FC.

For Barcelona, it was their third UEFA Champions League title in six seasons and it came, fittingly, at the venue where they first scaled continental football's greatest peak in 1992. Messi produced a man-of-the-match display and, as he had done in Rome two years ago, scored his team's decisive second goal nine minutes after the break, restoring the Azulgrana's lead with a long-range strike after Wayne Rooney had cancelled out Pedro Rodríguez's opener.

David Villa added a brilliant third to stamp Barcelona's superiority on a match in which they produced 12 attempts on target to their rivals' one, and confirm a repeat of their 2009 success against the English champions. Messi said: "We're very happy to lift another trophy. It was a difficult season, but we showed who we are. We were the better team. To be the man of the match is the least important thing because it was incredible how we played. We were very good in all areas."

While the Argentinian international praised his team-mates, Xavi Hernández underlined the key role played by the mesmeric Messi, whose goal was his 12th in this season's competition – equalling Ruud van Nistelrooy's scoring record in the UEFA Champions League era. "He is the number one, he makes the difference – he is just the best player in the world."

A touching postscript to Barcelona's triumph was the sight of Éric Abidal lifting the trophy, the French international, who underwent surgery to remove a liver tumour in March, having been a surprise starter at left-back because of Carles Puyol's fitness problems. Daniel Alves, who like Abidal had missed out on the 2009 final, said his team-mate's involvement was extra cause for celebration.

"Even before all of this we said our biggest victory, our most important trophy, was the recovery of Abi." The Brazil right-back added: "We put on a spectacle for everyone who is passionate about football and who loves football. And I think that people who really like football will be very happy today because they have seen a great match."

Midfielder Sergio Busquets concurred, describing it as an "almost perfect game" by Barça. "We suffered a bit at the beginning, and at the end, but by then the match was already decided. I think it was an almost perfect game – we had lots of possession and moved the ball very well. Thanks to that we managed to win." Nobody at Wembley, nor among the estimated 300 million worldwide television audience, would disagree.

Last updated: 27/11/12 12.05CET

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