Lionel Messi

Carles Puyol says Lionel Messi is the best player in football history, and credits him for improving “in every way” as Barcelona close in on a treble.

Barca defeated Manchester United comprehensively in the Champions League quarter-finals with Messi scoring twice in the second leg at Camp Nou on Tuesday. He is top scorer in the competition this season with 10 goals and also tops the scoring charts in La Liga, where Barca are virtually assured of a second consecutive title.

The Catalans also face Valencia in the Copa del Rey final at the end of May.

Puyol, the ex-Barca captain who won three Champions League titles, praises Messi as a true leader in Ernesto Valverde’s side.

“He is playing at an incredible level,” Puyol told Goal at the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour Presented by Heineken in Lagos, Nigeria.

“For me, he is the best ever player in the history of the game.

“He has shown that season after season and you can see how his game has evolved, all the things he now does. And you can see he’s improving every year with new attributes he has brought to his game.

“He has improved in every way and he is taking a step forward on a personal level. He has always been a leader on the field but now, you can see that he is a leader on and off the pitch.

“He is an introverted person but now you can see that he is leading from the front as the captain of Barcelona.”

Messi has scored an incredible 45 goals in 42 games in all competitions for Barca this season, and has added another 21 assists. They are nine points clear of Atletico Madrid in the league, with only 18 left to play for, and are now favourites to add another Champions League to their collection with a double header against Liverpool in the semi-finals to come.

“It’s been very good in the Champions League and also in all the other competitions,” said Puyol.

“They’re playing really good football and they have the chance of winning everything. Right now it’s great because the best is yet to come this season.

“Barcelona are one of the favourites for the Champions League because there are only four teams left.

“It is going to be a really tough semi-final against Liverpool because they having a great season but fans will want to see these kinds of games, that’s what the Champions League is all about.

“Players have come and they have left but the style of Barcelona has stayed the same. They’ve got a great generation of players who have made amazing results. The most important thing is the ambition of the club to keep making history.”

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