four-goal messi is toast of Spain

BARCELONA - The Spanish press yesterday hailed Argentine star Lionel Messi as a fearless "musketeer" the morning after his four-goal heroics catapulted Barcelona into the Champions League semifinals.

BARCELONA - The Spanish press yesterday hailed Argentine star Lionel Messi as a fearless "musketeer" the morning after his four-goal heroics catapulted Barcelona into the Champions League semifinals.

"Europe bows to a supernatural Messi," read the headline in the daily La Vanguardia.

Messi "blew away Arsenal with a four-goal anthology which shot Barca into the semifinals where they will meet Inter (Milan)", the newspaper continued.

There is now "just one God", wrote El Mundo, quoting Messi's Mexican teammate Rafael Marquez, who said: "A player like that arrives every 30 years."

The daily El Pais compared Messi to a musketeer trumpeting "all for Leo and Leo for all". For another big Catalan newspaper, El Periodico, Messi has become "the master of Europe".

The headline in Catalan daily Sport read: "No longer say football, say Messi" and it stressed this victory "is one further step towards the final" on May 22 at Real Madrid's Santiago-Bernabeu Stadium.

For Madrid's two big sports dailies - As and Marca - Tuesday night's match was a serious warning for Real Madrid, who host Barca in La Liga on Saturday.

"Messi scares" and "sows the seeds of terror before El Clasico", wrote As.

"How can you stop this guy?" asked Marca, quoting Real's Spanish defender Sergio Ramos, who admitted Messi was "a player to fear".

The 22-year-old World Player of the Year tops the La Liga scoring chart with 26 goals, two ahead of Real striker and compatriot Gonzalo Higuain.

Barca and Real meet in a Saturday's "Clasico" at the Bernabeu and Messi will be the player to watch. Real top the standings on goal difference with eight matches left, but after Saturday's clash the head-to-head record will separate the arch-rivals if they are still level on points.

Barca have the advantage after they won 1-0 at the Nou Camp in November and defeat for Real would be a serious setback to their title hopes. - Sapa-AFP and Reuters

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