Mascherano: Messi is the top man

Published Nov. 25, 2010 11:51 a.m. EST

Barcelona's Javier Mascherano hailed Lionel Messi after he continued his superb run of scoring against Panathinaikos in the Champions League.

Messi netted his side's second goal in the 3-0 win in Athens as Barca not only secured their place in the last 16 of the competition but also ensured they would be going through to the knockout stages as group winners.

Messi's strike means he has scored 23 times in all competitions for Barca already this season - 16 in his last 11 appearances - and extended his club-record tally in the Champions League to 31 goals in 49 matches.

It was also the 150th goal the 23-year-old reigning FIFA World Player of the Year has scored in official matches for Barca.


Mascherano said: "We have to enjoy Messi because it will be many years before we see a player of this magnitude again. He will go down in history."

With Messi in phenomenal form - he netted his sixth Barca hat-trick of 2010 in last week's 8-0 mauling of Almeria - Pep Guardiola's side now look to be firing an all cylinders after suffering a few setbacks at the start of the season.

Since being held 1-1 at home by Real Mallorca at the start of last month, the Catalan giants have reeled off 10 wins and one draw in 11 competitive matches, scoring an average of more than three goals per game.

That run could come under threat on Monday night, though, as Barca face a side in equally good form - arch rivals Real Madrid.

The furore surrounding 'El Clasico' has been steadily building for weeks, but both clubs can now finally turn their full attention to the clash.

Barca midfielder Xavi said after last night's match: "Now we can think about the Clasico. It's an important game and we're favourites because we're playing at home. We are in form and playing well."

Mascherano added on his club's website: "We hope to win the Clasico because it's important, but they are still only three points and we don't have to go mad about it. We must try to go into the game with calm."