Diego Simeone: Luis Suarez and Neymar have brought Lionel Messi back to his best
Madrid, May 11 (IANS) Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone on Monday credited forwards Luis Suarez and Neymar for bringing star striker Lionel Messi back to his marauding best for Barcelona this season.
The Argentina superstar was sensational in scoring two goals in the 3-0 Champions League semi-final first-leg win over Bayern Munich last week.
"He is an extraordinary footballer and after the game (against Bayern), much was written and said about whether there is a system to stop him. But it's not as simple as that," Simeone wrote in a column for goal.com on Monday.
"It's not only Messi, however -- it's Barcelona. Suarez gives Barca the aggression that is so important in the attacking third; Neymar is there to finish off a counter-attack, an individual action or a collective move; the presence of Ivan Rakitic makes Barca more aggressive in midfield and in winning the ball back; Javier Mascherano in defence is everywhere; Gerard Pique has been immense this year; and the full backs attack constantly.”
"Barcelona are a unit and in that unit, the individual talent of Lionel obviously stands out -- but he wouldn't be able to do it without the support of his teammates.”
Messi has scored 53 goals in all competitions this season while also becoming the highest all-time scorer in the Champions League after taking his tally to 77 - one ahead of his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
"The presence of Suarez and Neymar -- in his second season - has helped him. He has the support of the entire team. Rakitic has given Barca extra stability in midfield and is a different option to players like Xavi and, previously, Thiago.
"The attacking potential of Suarez is an added plus for Barca - and for Lionel - this season and his aggression, along with that of Pedro and Neymar, allows Messi to take advantage of that sacrifice from his teammates."
The Catalans are four points clear of Real Madrid in La Liga and favourites to reach the Champions League final following the return leg in Munich on Tuesday -- while they also face AthleticClub Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final.