Football: Celtic coach Rodgers says Lionel Messi is 'best player that's ever played football'

Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers shake hands after the match.
Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers shake hands after the match.PHOTO: REUTERS

GLASGOW (REUTERS) - Celtic coach Brendan Rodgers hailed Barcelona's Lionel Messi as probably the greatest footballer ever after the Argentine magician put the Scottish champions to the sword again with both goals in a 2-0 win on Wednesday.

Messi, returning to the team after illness, proved the difference as Barca comfortably took their place in the last 16 in the Champions League, Europe's premier club competition.

Asked if his side would have won had Messi been playing for Celtic, a smiling Rodgers said: "We would have had a big chance, there's no doubt about that.

"He's arguably the best player that's ever played football, and when he plays in your team, he makes everyone else better. So if he's playing for Celtic tonight, no doubt he makes us all better."

Messi, yet again, was the star of the show. He scored both goals, created chances for others, and capped a virtuoso performance with a mesmerising matador-like feint that bamboozled Celtic captain Scott Brown in the closing minutes.

Messi missed his side's goalless draw against Malaga on Saturday with a bug, but was back to his tormenting best just as he had been when scoring a hat-trick in Barca's 7-0 win over Celtic at the Nou Camp two months ago.

The brace took Messi's Champions League total to 92 goals, including nine in this season's group stage, and though he narrowly missed a hat-trick, his genius ensured Celtic exited all European competition while Barca progress to the last 16 as group winners.

Celtic Park on Champions League nights provides one of the best atmospheres in world football, but Messi's goals silenced the passionate 60,000 crowd.

"Messi, at this level, was decisive," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said.