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By ESPN Staff

Guardiola gushes over Messi

Pep Guardiola was full of praise for star striker Lionel Messi after he became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League game in the 7-1 thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen.

"Tonight we witnessed one of [Lionel] Messi's most special nights; watching it was like receiving a gift," Guadiola said on UEFA.com. " He deserves to be honoured right now because it's something really incredible that he is now just seven goals behind [Barcelona's all-time top scorer] Cesar - he's only 24.

"It's not easy to score five goals in a single game and that's coming from someone who scored 11 in his entire career. If he wants to, he'll score six one day. I have to also say that [Andres] Iniesta played magnificently too.

"We've reached the quarter-finals for the last five years now and that says something about the great stability here. This really is the most beautiful competition. The team we were facing tonight eliminated Valencia and only a few days ago beat Bayern Munich; that speaks volumes of our achievement.

"We have to thank all of the players and the staff at the club."

Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt was disappointed with the manner of defeat.

"Though we played Barcelona, this loss really hurts," Dutt said. "Let's face it, they were simply too strong. Criticism will come and we have to live with it. We weren't at our best and if you play Barcelona, you need to have a perfect day.

"We did not give up in the second half, but they were simply too strong. When it was 2-0, they realised they could relax and have fun with the ball and that's what they did. We tried to keep up, but they punished us. That can happen against an opponent like Barcelona.

"Of course, the players always try to stay with their opposing player, but today that was impossible. We were late too often. After this loss we should not bring the whole of German football in to question. Barcelona can play like that against almost every team from every league. It will be easy to forget about this game; we are all professionals. The Champions League is one thing, the Bundesliga another.

"Barcelona has an extraordinary quality and the question is, 'how can you achieve such a level?' We'll have to find out. I congratulated Guardiola and told him that I'm sure his team will be in the Champions League final this year again. They use space so well and their build-up play is superb.

"If you are a fan, you must be deeply impressed by Messi today, but me as a coach, I did hope for one of his bad days. They have it all, technique, tactics and team spirit. A perfect performance."

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