Luis Suarez hailed Lionel Messi as “the best in the world” after his Barcelona team-mates crowned a superb Copa del Rey comeback against Athletic Bilbao, with the holders triumphing 4-3 on aggregate.
Trailing 2-1 from a highly charged first leg at San Mames last week, Suarez put Barcelona ahead on Wednesday with his 100th goal for the club.
It was also the 300th goal that Barcelona’s famed MSN front three have managed since they first played together in 2014 and Neymar got in on the act by winning and converting a penalty early in the second half.
Athletic’s Barcelona-born wideman Enric Saborit levelled the tie on aggregate with a 51st-minute header but Messi stepped forward 12 minutes from time to send home a whipped free-kick off the base of the right-hand post.
Messi was beaten to the inaugural Best FIFA Men’s Player award by his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo as Barcelona’s players shunned the ceremony in Zurich.
Ronaldo also scooped the Ballon d’Or in December to take his career haul to four against Messi’s five, but Suarez had no doubt over which player is superior in what is an often tiresomely trodden debate.
“He has that something,” Suarez told reporters after the match. “He is the best in the world and it shows in every game.
“He always surprises us with something nice.”
Messi’s free-kick prowess is becoming less surprising by the match in 2017, after he also converted from dead-ball situations in the first leg and at Villarreal on Sunday to snatch a 1-1 draw in LaLiga.
With Barcelona five points off the pace in the top flight, having played a game more than Madrid, Suarez conceded it was important to stay on track for a third consecutive Copa del Rey crown.
“[The win] changes a lot,” he said. “It’s what we wanted and needed.
“We were reassured that we are working well and the results would come.”
Suarez hit three figures in his 120th Barcelona appearance and added: “The important thing is that the goal I scored served to help us advance in the Copa, which is what we wanted.”
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