Hailing FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi for his superlative display against Chelsea, manager Antonio Conte said his kind of player is born only once every 50 years. Barcelona thumped Chelsea 3-0 in the second leg of the round of 16 Champions League tie at Camp Nou, qualifying for the quarter-finals 4-1 on aggregate. Messi scored twice to take his tally to 100 goals in the competition and also set up Ousmane Dembele to open his Barcelona account.
At the final whistle, Chelsea coach Conte was seen marching onto the pitch to congratulate Messi on his display.
"We are talking about a player who can move the final result for every team, for any team he is playing in," Conte was quoted as saying by ESPNFC.
"He started to play with Barcelona and for sure he will finish his career in Barcelona. Many teams can hope to have him in their team, but it won't be possible.
"This is a great story for Barcelona and Messi. This type of player is born [once] in 50 years. We are talking about one single player with this capacity, with this ability, with these skills.
"He's fantastic. We are talking about a player who is able to move the final result for the team for whom he is playing."
Asked what were his words to the Argentine, Conte replied: "When you have the opportunity to make a great compliment to Messi, I think it's right.
"It's right to praise a super, super, super top player. A player who is able to score 60 goals in every season, not only for one season. I'm very pleased to have the opportunity at the end of the game to give him my compliments because we are talking about an extraordinary player, the best in the world."
Chelsea had their moments too, hitting the post with a Marcos Alonso free kick in the first half and seeing Antonio Rudiger's header crash off the crossbar late on.
Conte said the final result was unfair and they dominated the game for larger parts after conceding the early goal.
"If you watched the game, you can see the final result is unfair," he added.
"Our start was terrible, to concede a goal after only two minutes. But, after this, we tried to play football for a long time and dominated the game, creating chances to score. Over the two legs, we hit the post [or crossbar] four times. This is very strange. I think that a fantastic player moved the final result and the qualification. In these two legs, Messi moved the final result. He scored three goals. He made a decisive pass for Dembele to score.
"It's a pity. But, at the same time, I must be honest. I have to praise the commitment of my players. I must be very proud of my players because they gave everything. We have to continue in this way, with this will to fight, this desire to fight together."
(With IANS Inputs)