Lionel Messi comparisons are ‘crazy’

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Pedri evoked memories of Lionel Messi as he helped Barcelona book their place in the Europa League quarterfinals with a 2-1 win at Galatasaray, but he says comparisons with the Argentina forward are “crazy.”

A header from Brazilian defender Marcao had given Galatasaray the lead in Istanbul on Thursday before a brilliant solo effort from Pedri drew Barca level before half-time.

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The Spain international received a pass from Ferran Torres just inside the box and dummied inside two players, sitting them down on the floor in the process, before beating on-loan Barca goalkeeper Inaki Pena.

“No way!” Pedri shot back when told his goal had drawn comparisons with Messi, who left Barca for Paris Saint-Germain last summer. “Messi has scored much better goals. It is crazy to compare me with Messi.

“I don’t really remember the goal, though, so I will have to watch it back. I remember Ferran gave me the ball, I feinted [inside] because I saw a leg coming and again, I think, until I shot. Things just come to me on the pitch. I’m lucky in that I don’t have to really think.”

Barca coach Xavi Hernandez has previously been criticised for comparing Pedri with another former Barcelona great, Andres Iniesta, so he steered clear of making any more comparisons but was once again impressed by the young midfielder.

“The goal is sublime,” Xavi said in a news conference. “It’s of real beauty, the pause in the build-up … Pedri is capable of that and much more — and he’s sill only 19. What a privilege. I can’t praise him anymore.”

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the winner early in the second half with his seventh goal for his new club. The ex-Arsenal striker turned home a Frenkie de Jong pass as Barca extended their unbeaten streak in all competitions to 11 games ahead of Sunday’s Clasico against Real Madrid (4 p.m. ET; stream LIVE on ESPN+).

“We played really well and showed a lot of character,” Xavi added. “There’s a lot of merit in coming from behind here.

“We knew how and when to attack, we played with patience and we came from behind at a difficult ground. Galatasaray defended well, man-marking, but we did much better than the first leg [which was goalless]. It’s a deserved win and could have been by more, we were better in both games.

“I think the Clasico arrives at a good moment for us. But I have seen everything in football and I know that Sunday will be another story.”

The win, Barca’s sixth in their last seven games, was slightly dampened by injuries to Gerard Pique and Sergino Dest, who were both taken off in the second half.

Xavi said Pique has been playing with a problem for a month, leading to doubts about his availability against Madrid this weekend, while sources told ESPN Dest suffered a hamstring strain.

The United States international will undergo further tests on Friday but he’s unlikely to feature at the Santiago Bernabeu and could miss the World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica later this month.