[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola compared him with Michael Jordan. Stuttgart coach Christian Gross compared him with Diego Maradona. Lionel Messi's legend grows by the day. Three days after his phenomenal hat trick in Barcelona's 3-0 win over Valencia, Messi put on another show with two golazos and an assist in Barca's 5-1 win over Stuttgart that moved it into the quarterfinals of UEFA Champions League.
Messi set the tone in the 13th minute, running across the length of the penalty area and teasing the Stuttgart defenders with a half dozen touches with the outside of his left foot before rolling the ball the final 10 yards and blasting it through a maze of defenders past goalie Jens Lehmann at the far post.
Nine minutes later, the Argentine found Yaya Toure streaking behind the Stuttgart defense and chipped a delicate ball into the Ivorian's path. Toure had the easy task of laying the ball off to Pedro for the second goal.
On Messi's second goal, he whirled around to elude his marker and fired a low shot back across the grain and past Lehmann.
Guardiola said Messi's move into the middle allows him to see the ball more.
"Last year we won six titles and he played wide," he said, "but we need him involved and sometimes he sees more of the ball when he plays more in the center. But he is the best, wherever he plays. He was so decisive. Every great has a tendency to influence his team, like Jordan with the Bulls. He's the best. We wouldn't trade him for anybody."
Messi almost had another hat trick, but he rolled his shot wide after beating three defenders.
"His ability is incredible when you consider his age," Gross said. "I think it's fair to compare him to Maradona."