KEIR RADNEDGE in Barcelona: Eric Cantona worshipped today at the altar of Leo Messi in the wake of the Barcelona icon’s historic five-goal tour de force against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.

The Argentinian scored five of the Spanish, European and world champions’ goals in their 7-1 crushing of the German team in the second round second leg tie in Camp Nou.

No player had previously scored five goals in one game in the Champions League and Messi’s goals lifted him level with the 49 goals scored by Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano – a fellow Argentinian – in the original European Champion Clubs Cup.

Cantona, the old Manchester United hero and French stormy petrel, was addressing a conference session at the Global Sports Forum in the Catalania Congress Palace.

He said: “Messi is an exceptional player. When you watch him as if he has this child inside him and he is making some childhood dream come true. He doesn’t see himself as a star. This is a great player not only for today but for tomorrow.”

Cantona’s admiration was echoed by the Barcelona president Sandro Rosell.

He said: “What Messi achieved was a sort of mission impossible – which he managed. He’s the best player in the world. It’s like our coach, Pep Guardiola, said: We are lucky enough to be alive at moments like this with someone like Messi. He’s the best player in history.

“We’ll never see a player like him again so let’s enjoy watching him while we have him because he is unbelievable. He’s in a league all of his own.”

Rosell, addressing a conference session about philanpthropy through sport, referred to various examples of the way in which social development organsations could better get their message over through the use of role models such as the Barcelona footballers.