FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi said he had enjoyed putting a stylish hat-trick past AFC Ajax – most of all because of how the Dutch champions had earned his respect with a confident and technically impressive display.
Messi's three goals, complemented by Gerard Piqué's header, equalled the matchday one tally of Real Madrid CF's Cristiano Ronaldo, last season's competition top scorer, though the No10 stressed that winning back the UEFA Champions League trophy, not the golden boot, was his focus.
Ajax defender Niklas Moisander, meanwhile, concurred with Barça's Marc Bartra that the Argentinian international is the best in the world – though Moisander also stated that the Amsterdam club can recuperate morale and points next time out against AC Milan.
Lionel Messi, Barcelona forward
Obviously I am pleased that tonight makes it 62 UEFA Champions League goals, but above that is the result and how our team played. This was a very good Ajax side, always attempting to play football, to win the ball off us and to keep it. So to get a win of this margin has been a good night's work. It was good to play against a rival who wanted to compete in pure football terms with us. That will have made it a good game to watch.
The idea of overtaking Raúl at the top of the all-time Champions League scoring charts is a fine challenge, but it is not essential. We, as a team, have other more important objectives. For example, to get as far as we are capable of doing in this competition, to try to win it again. Whether the right number of goals come for me this season or not is not so important.
Marc Bartra, Barcelona defender
The tempo of our play was very high. That is what the Champions League requires. All our opponents come at us hard, they have clear game plans and the intensity of all these matches is really high. You can never drop your guard, not for a moment. Our team is really focused, we know what is needed.
We fought for, and won control of the game, and we come away from this Ajax test pretty content with how it went. Today we showed greater defensive intensity. Messi is the best footballer in the world but he is also the first to take responsibility for pressing and starting our attacks with hard work.
Niklas Moisander, Ajax defender
We thought we knew how to play against Barcelona and after the first half we were sure. We thought we could keep the ball and make chances and until half-time were managing it. Things went really well. After the break we did not seem to have the power to keep on at the same level. Then Barça showed they were the better team.
Honestly, this shows we are still at the same level as last year. Against Real Madrid we had a couple of four-goal defeats and I would say that Madrid and Barcelona are the two best sides in the world. However, we are still confident. We knew how hard this experience might be and we know that if we play like we did in the first half we can beat anyone.
Even after a four-goal defeat there are good things we can take from this game and move on. Messi is unbelievable. It is great to get the chance to play against the best in the world. It doesn't really need repeating: he is a fantastic player.
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