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Lionel Messi is hailed as greatest ever after 500th Barca goal


By David Nelson

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez led the tributes to Lionel Messi after the Argentinian scored his 500th Barca goal to give Luis Enrique's side a last-gasp 3-2 win over 10-man Real Madrid.

Messi struck twice in a dramatic victory to take Barcelona to the top of La Liga, albeit having played a game more.

Ivan Rakitic was also on target for Barcelona, while Casemiro and James Rodriguez - the Colombian having equalised in the 85th minute - scored for hosts Real, who had captain Sergio Ramos sent off for the 22nd time in his Madrid career in the final quarter.

Ramos received an El Clasico red card for the second successive season 13 minutes from time. Messi was fortunate that the Spaniard's two-footed challenge did not make contact with him.

Former Liverpool forward Suarez said: "It's time to enjoy beating a direct opponent, Madrid. It's time to enjoy the best player in the world and of all time.

"He keeps showing that in the most important games, which is when you really see him. It's admirable. Our destiny still isn't in our hands, but they're under pressure to win every game, because we aim to do the same."

Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta echoed the sentiments of Suarez, adding: "The great thing about Leo is that he never stops surprising you. After so many years he continues to be the difference. For us it is an honour and a blessing for the club.

"It was a match with a bit of everything, stages where we were in control, others where we were in too much of a hurry to attack. These games are difficult here and there were chances for both teams, but in the end we got the winner in added time to leave very happy, it couldn't be any other way.

"We have achieved our objective, we have a chance and we have to take it. These matches are brilliant for the fans, when there's chances for both teams. We are very happy because it was not easy after being knocked out (of the Champions League) the other day. It wasn't easy to be back for this kind of fixture, but we did it."

Ramos has called on Madrid to put the defeat behind them and focus on the future as they look to win the title for the first time since 2011-12.

"It hurts when you consider the situation we were in before the match, but there's no time to dwell on it. We've got to move on and turn our attentions to the next game," he said.

Ramos felt the referee was harsh to dismiss him for his attempted tackle on Messi and added: "The sending-off was a key moment because they scored in the last minute. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I respect that, but for me a red card was excessive.

"I caught him late but I didn't go in to harm the player. I don't talk about the referees because they can make mistakes like any of us and I'm never going to discuss it."

Is Lionel Messi the greatest of all time?

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique hailed Lionel Messi “the best player in history” after the Argentina international’s 500th club goal won Sunday’s Clasico against Real Madrid.

 Here are some of the contenders for the crown.

LIONEL MESSI: Few would argue the little Argentinian is by far the best footballer of his generation despite the endless comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo. Five hundred club goals before his 30th birthday (in June) is a remarkable achievement, as is winning five World Player of the Year awards, eight league titles and four Champions Leagues but what makes Messi special is the things you cannot quantify, like his ability to score an added-time winner in a Clasico Barcelona just had to win on Sunday.

CRISTIANO RONALDO: Ronaldo, two years Messi’s senior, has fleetingly held the crown as world’s best but even then he was always looking over his shoulder for his rival. The numbers the Portugal international has racked up are impressive, particularly during his time at Real Madrid, as are his four World Player of the Year titles, four league championships and three Champions League victories (won with Manchester United and Real). However, despite all this Ronaldo has not been able to shake the accusation he does not affect as many of the bigger games as his contemporary.

PELE: Generally regarded as the greatest in history, the Brazil international made his name on a global stage, scoring six goals in his debut World Cup in 1958 aged 17. He benefited from playing in the greatest era of Brazilian football but his talents were unquestioned. A three-time World Cup winner, his achievements at club level were limited by his loyalty to Santos at a time when moving to a top European side was not commonplace.

DIEGO MARADONA: For a long time the Pele-Maradona debate mirrored the one still being had about Messi and Ronaldo, although comparing two players from different generations made it more difficult. More edgy in attitude and style than the Brazilian, Maradona was able to transcend two continents having left Boca Juniors for Barcelona and then Napoli, who enjoyed him at the very peak of his powers. He won two titles and the Uefa Cup with the Serie A club, as well as a World Cup — at which he was the star — during that time but his reputation was tarnished by ill-discipline and drugs.

GEORGE BEST: Well, we could hardly leave out the Belfast Boy, could we? Football’s first superstar, he helped Manchester United become the first English club to lift the European Cup. He was also named European Player of the Year in 1968 and won two First Division titles but never got the chance to shine on the world stage with Northern Ireland before his well-publicised early retirement from the game.

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