Jose Mourinho has coined a new nickname for Barcelona star Lionel Messi after his Champions League heroics: ‘The God of Football’.
Mourinho hailed the ‘absolutely incredible’ Argentine ace after he scored a brace in Barcelona’s 3-0 demolition of Liverpool in their semi-final first leg.
After Luis Suarez scored against his former club to give Barcelona the lead, Messi benefited from a rebound to make it 2-0 before firing in a stunning free-kick to give Liverpool a seemingly impossible task in next Tuesday’s second leg at Anfield.
The scoreline was harsh on Liverpool – whose possession stat of 53% is much more than most teams ever manage at Camp Nou.
And Mourinho said it was only the brilliance of Barcelona’s players – and of Messi in particular – that swung the result so severely.
“Liverpool was brave in the approach,” Mourinho told Russia Today. “I don’t think in the past 20 years many teams in the Champions League beat Barcelona in ball possession in the Champions League.
“God of Football made it completely different. Of course (Barca) have a good team, phenomenal players, but that player is absolutely incredible.”
Of course, Mourinho wasn’t always so complimentary about Messi.
The two were rivals when Mourinho was in charge of Real Madrid between 2010 and 2013.
But the first time the ‘Special One’ faced the ‘God of Football’ was in the Champions League during the 2005/06 season, when Messi was still just a teenager.
Messi was fantastic in Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Mourinho’s Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. But the manager was angered by Messi’s role in Asier del Horno’s controversial red card.
Del Horno had clattered into Messi, who then rolled around on the ground several times.
Mourinho had accused him of play-acting, saying: “How do you say cheating in Catalan?
“Can Messi be suspended for acting? Barcelona is a cultural city with many great theatres and this boy has learned very well. He’s learned play-acting.”
Messi responded by telling reporters: “I don’t do theatre.
“I don’t attach any importance to that because we know what he’s like, that he likes talking, he likes to say things and heat up the atmosphere.”
He said while Liverpool didn’t deserve to lose 3-0 based on their performance, they could have been down by even more following some late chances.
“Liverpool deserve much more than the 3-0 defeat but in the last two corners of the game it could be 4-0 or 5-0, because the game was broken and then they couldn’t cope. The question is which Barcelona will we have when Messi decides to say goodbye,” he added.
“Fabinho and even (Roberto) Firmino looks small (for the free-kick) but is not small. Firmino is the last one but this side, the goalkeeper gave one metre to the diagonal to cover that situation and it’s impossible to stop.”
On Suarez’s opener, Mourinho said: “Luis Suarez’s movement (for the first goal) is phenomenal. One metre here, and I bring the defender with me, at least mentally because the defender thinks I’m going in that direction and now I’m going to attack the space in front. And goodbye.”