Gary Neville: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo deserve final showdown

Gary Neville says Lionel Messi “deserves” to face Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League final after taking football to a different level this season.

The Sky Sports pundit was in the Nou Camp on Wednesday night to watch Messi score a brilliant double in Barcelona’s 3-0 semi-final first-leg win over Bayern Munich, a result he feels has effectively secured their place in the Berlin showpiece on June 6.

Messi’s 76th and 77th Champions League goals saw him overtake Ronaldo in the competition’s all-time scoring charts and Neville is hoping Real Madrid can recover from their 2-1 first leg defeat to Juventus to set up an all-Spanish final.

Speaking on Sky Sports’ Champions League Podcast he said: “With respect to Bayern Munich and Juventus, it would be a wonderful final to see those two pit themselves against each other.

“Obviously there’d be another 10 players on each side as well, but you can imagine the build-up to the game and what it would be like.

“They almost deserve to be in a Champions League final together. That’s not me being emotional about it, but it’s the way both of them perform.

“The goalscoring record is scandalous; it’s out of this world. It wouldn’t surprise you next week if Cristiano took his team to the final. Messi has almost done it tonight and it feels like the tie is over here.

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“It was a special night and a great performance. We don’t see too many performances like that, even though we watch a lot of football matches.

“That is a different level we’ve seen tonight.”

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Watch Lionel Messi put Barcelona 2-0 up against Bayern Munich in their Champions League semi-final clash.

Neville highlighted Messi’s second goal, which saw him beat several Bayern defenders before chipping Manuel Neuer, as a prime example of his brilliance.

And he says he will never forget his devastating displays against both Bayern Munich and Manchester City in the Champions League this season.

“In the 20 minutes before half-time against Manchester City he took me to a place in a football game that I haven’t been too many times in my life,” he added.

“I like to be quite pragmatic about football and I like to understand how you can stop football teams and block positions off.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to dump all of your defensive thoughts and just think about the brilliance of an individual or a piece of play. Tonight was one of those moments.

“The second goal summed it up. He was up against the best one-on-one goalkeeper in the world and he made him look a fool. He put Jerome Boateng on his backside and it was a brilliant bit of play.

“We’ve seen him do it so many times, but to do that again and again in the biggest matches and take the game away from the opposition in such a fashion is devastation. It really is wonderful to watch.”

To hear more from Gary Neville and Martin Tyler on Pep Guardiola's surprising tactics and why English clubs must aim to reach the heights of Barcelona, download the Sky Sports Champions League podcast at www.skysports.com/podcast

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