Vilanova: Messi about more than goals
Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova says Lionel Messi's goalscoring stats appear "impossible", while he feels there is more to the prolific Argentine's game than just putting the ball in the net.
Speaking to reporters after Messi's double strike took him past Gerd Muller's calendar year record to reach 86 goals in 2012 and gave his team a valuable 2-1 win at Real Betis, Vilanova said that his star turn was likely to set an even higher target before the current year was out.
"We are very pleased that Messi helped us win this game with his two goals and that he broke Muller's record," Vilanova said. "It seems impossible that he can score so many goals, he still has three matches left this year. I hope he can keep adding to it and helping us."
Vilanova was keen to remind everyone that Messi's powers go beyond his scoring ability, stating that the forward is unique as a complete all-round player.
"We will not see a player like this ever again," he said. "Not just for his goalscoring capacity and for his ability to see a pass, but for the way he understands the game in attack and defence."
When asked whether Messi, still just 25, might break his own record in future years, Vilanova cautioned against getting too carried away.
"We hope that he still has a lot left to give because he is still very young," he said. "We should not heap more pressure on him. His record this year is absolutely brutal. Someone will beat the record at some stage, but we should just focus on enjoying this moment."
Vilanova also praised his side's start to the game - Messi's two goals came inside first half hour - and subsequent ability to hold on for a 13th win in 14 Primera Division games when Betis came back into the game through Ruben Castro's well-taken strike.
"The first 30 minutes were the best we have played all year," the Barca boss said. "However, like I warned before the game, Betis scored before the break and it got complicated from there.
"In the second half they pressed us high up the pitch and had chances to score. I am pleased. In the first half we dominated the game and in the second half we managed to grind out the win. When these players need to suffer and come together they do it."