The Atletico Madrid goalkeeper has heaped praise upon a long-time rival, insisting the Argentine remains “the best player in the world”
Jan Oblak has paid tribute to “amazing” Lionel Messi after his surpassing of Pele, claiming the Barcelona superstar is “the best” because he “sees everything” on the pitch.
Brazil legend Pele’s long-standing one-club scoring record was finally broken on Tuesday night as Messi took his tally of goals for Barca to 644 in 749 games during a 3-0 away win over Real Valladolid.
The Argentina international’s cool finish to round off the scoring at Jose Zorrilla Stadium was typical of a man who has made finding the back of the net look like an art form since beginning his senior career at Camp Nou way back in 2004.
Messi is regarded by many as the greatest player of the modern era, having inspired Barca to 10 La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns over the past 16 years, winning six Ballon d’Or awards along the way.
The Blaugrana captain is still going strong despite having reached the ripe old age of 33, with Oblak of the opinion that a long-time rival’s longevity at the highest level stems from the way he picks his moments to explode into life during matches.
The Atletico Madrid goalkeeper has heaped praise upon Messi following his latest milestone, while opening up on the battles he’s faced against the Argentine on both a personal and team level.
“He watches my legs,” Oblak told Sky Sports. “If I make one step, he will see it and shoot to the other side. This is why he is the best. This is why he is so difficult. He does not show it but he is always looking. He is always watching you. His eyes are on the ball but he sees you.
“He sees everything, I think. It is strange. Sometimes you think you are controlling them, you are controlling him. But in a second, he changes the game, he scores a goal, and Barcelona win.
“Sometimes you do not see him. Maybe you are thinking it is not dangerous. And then he scores. This happened to us last season. You need to be 100 per cent concentrated.
“He is still the best player in the world.”
The Slovenian shot-stopper added: “He has scored many goals against me. Too many! But he is a great player, an amazing player, the best player. There are many times that he scores a goal and you have this feeling that you cannot understand how he has scored so easily.
“You are not even close. Sometimes it feels like he has just passed the ball into the goal, it is not even a shot.”
Asked how Atletico usually set their stall out to try and stop Messi, Oblak responded: “Normally, goalkeepers, we are shouting all the time to help the defenders but I know it is difficult when Messi is on the other side. The defenders do their best but it is difficult to do anything tactically to stop Messi because you never know what he is going to do.
“All you can do is play hard and when you see him don’t leave him. Try to steal the ball but don’t give a foul close to the goal because he is great at free-kicks. He is great at everything.
“If you are too close he will go past you. If you are too far he will shoot. It is not easy to decide how you will defend against him because of his unpredictability. It is impossible.”
The 27-year-old concluded by talking up the significance of Messi’s latest achievement and predicting that the Barca talisman will continue to break new boundaries until the time eventually comes for him to hang up his boots.
“I am sure that he is going to score many more than just 644, even though it is already a lot,” he adds. “It is a really special achievement. I can only say the best words about him because he is the best.
“He has shown it for so many years and I can only congratulate him, wish him all the best, and hope that he scores many more goals.
“Just not against me.”