Pep Guardiola praised his former protege, Lionel Messi, as the “best player of all time” He said he is thrilled that the Argentine is back to his best, despite the Barcelona star proving so decisive in Bayern Munich’s elimination from the Champions League.
Messi did not score in the German side’s 3-2 semi-final second leg win, but did play a brilliant through ball that set up Neymar’s first to make it 1-1 and effectively kill the tie there and then.
“Messi is just incredible, really strong, really fast, back to his best just as when I used to train him,” Guardiola said. “He is the best player of all time. I can compare him with Pele.
Guardiola also said he was proud of his team, despite their ultimate 5-3 defeat on aggregate, insisting the second leg showed the balance they should have had in the first game of the tie.
“The only way you can stop players like that front three, you have to force them to run more. When Barcelona have the ball, they are very strong, there is nothing you can do about that.
“In the Camp Nou we didn’t play that well, we gave them this big chance. We have to have more presence in the penalty area, we had to get more balls in. Barcelona deserved to get into the final.
This season could be seen as a disappointment to some Bayern fans — they only won the Bundesliga this campaign, one year after winning the league, the DFB Pokal, the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup. Guardiola, however, backed his players.
“I would like to congratulate my players, I am very proud of my players. I am very happy. I want to pay a big compliment to Barcelona. I hope in Berlin they can win their fifth Champions League,” Guardiola said.
“We did everything we could. In the last season we won four titles, in this season one title. Normally when you play with many problems, lots of injuries, and the players attack and attack, not just today but the whole season in the Bundesliga, and the Cup.”
Bayern captain Philipp Lahm added: “We all believed in the miracle. Unfortunately it did not work because we conceded an early equaliser.
“We gave everything we could. We did not lose the tie today, that much is obvious, but we lost it instead in the first leg.”