BARCELONA: Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said the brilliance of Lionel Messi was the only real difference between his side and Barcelona after the irrepressible Argentine`s sublime free-kick goal decided Sunday`s top-of-the-table La Liga showdown.
Messi`s stinging set-piece strike in the 26th minute gave Barca a 1-0 win in a tight game of few chances, lifting the Catalans eight points ahead of Atletico at the top with 11 games remaining. "If we took the Barcelona shirt off Messi and gave him an Atletico one I`m sure we`d have won 1-0," Simeone told a news conference. "He plays like he is playing on the streets."
Barca manager Ernesto Valverde also paid tribute to Messi, who scored his 600th career goal and netted a free kick for the third consecutive game. "There`s no-one like him in the world. I don`t know what would have happened if he played for Atletico, I don`t want to even imagine it," Valverde said.
"When you are on the other side you always think Messi is going to score, your sense of fear is far stronger when he is your rival. When he is on your side, you are always hopeful," added Valverde, who suffered repeatedly against Messi while in charge of Athletic Bilbao.
Atletico could have reduced the gap behind Barca to two points with victory at the Nou Camp yet they did not manage a single shot on target throughout the 90 minutes and were particularly unimaginati...