Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas hailed Lionel Messi as a pleasure to play alongside and believes he deserves all the plaudits being showered on him after the Argentina playmaker continued his stunning form with both goals in the 2-0 win over Racing Santander.
Messi, fresh from netting five times in the midweek Champions League thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen, struck in the 29th and 56th minutes against Racing to reach the 50-goal mark this season in all competitions.
That has left the reigning FIFA Ballon d'Or winner just three goals away from matching his season record of 53, which he set last term, and is also within touching distance of Cesar Rodriguez's all-time club record of 235 official goals.
Messi needs just six more goals to break Cesar's mark, and still aged only 24 Messi could conceivably set a new record that may never be reached.
Fabregas said of his team-mate: ''He's different to every other player in the world, and it's a pleasure to be able to able to play with him, to have him in the team, because he gives you this extra confidence that every champion team needs. He's a humble player, hard working, he loves football. He deserves everything that's happening to him.''
Barca's win over Racing saw them cut Real Madrid's lead at the summit back to 10 points. With only 12 games to go, Jose Mourinho's men are firm favourites to win the title and end Barca's three-year domination in La Liga, but Fabregas insists his side have not given up the chase yet.
''We will fight until the end, despite it being difficult,'' said the Spain international, who is also looking forward to the two-day break Pep Guardiola has given the squad.
He said on his club's website: ''We've practically not had any stop since Christmas, I think this will be good to recharge the batteries.''
Barca face a tough trip to Sevilla this weekend, while Real Madrid are at home to fourth-placed Malaga.