Madrid: Spain's press almost ran out of superlatives on Thursday to praise Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi after he scored a record five goals against Bayer Leverkusen, setting a Champions League record.
"Ave Messi" and "Hurricane Messi" the headlines glowed, after the Argentinian set a new benchmark for the competition during Barcelona's 7-1 demolition of the German team.
"The hand of God" headlined in unison three major sports papers Marca, Mundo Deportivo and Sport, borrowing the headline to describe Messi compatriot Maradona's controversial 1986 World Cup quarterfinals goal, scored with a handball.
"Starting out an article by saying that Messi is hard to explain seems unacceptable, but that is the closest to the truth," Marca apologised in its match report, which listed past records set by the 24-year-old.
Messi's record five goals in a match came after he matched the most number of goals in the Champions League last season, with 12.
Other players had scored five goals in a match in the past under the former European Cup, but no-one has managed the feat since 1993 under the current Champions League format.
"And yesterday he had a headache," noted the Catalan daily Mundo Deportivo.
"The doctor gave him a painkiller, perhaps it was a Bayer aspirin, and off he ran," it joked, recalling that Messi had complained of a headache before the clash.
Under the headline "Hurricane Messi" the leading daily El Pais said: "No-one demands more of himself than Messi, who transforms every match into a show, and takes criticism for the days he does not shine."
Marca noted that Messi was close to breaking yet another record, the 235 goals scored by club great Cesar Rodriguez : "Seven. Just seven goals separate 'The Flea' from the biggest scorer in Barca's history, Cesar Rodriguez.
"Messi is a machine who crushes everything in his path."
Meanwhile, Messi's teammates were also full of praise for the player, with Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez saying the Argentinian had "no equal" in the game.
"Leo is peerless. You (journalists) naturally try to compare him to the greatest names but Messi is unique. He has no equal," Hernandez told a news conference in Barcelona, after being asked to compare him to Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.
"No one makes a difference like him and no one gets involved as much as him. Even when he doesn't score, he makes decisive passes. He's a little marvel," he added.
Messi has scored 48 goals in all competitions this season, with Ronaldo on 38. In La Liga, however, the Portuguese is slightly ahead with 30 against Messi's 28.
Hernandez kept his cards close to his chest when asked about the possibility of a Real Madrid-Barca final in the Champions League.
"Real Madrid still have to qualify. There've been a few surprises already. Even Manchester United got knocked out. Talk of a Barca-Real final is therefore just one of a number of possibilities," he told reporters.