Substitute Lionel Messi was integral to Barcelona’s Champions League win over Paris-St Germain, according to both his team-mates and opponents.
Messi came on after 62 minutes and helped set up Pedro’s goal as Barca drew 1-1 to advance on away goals.
“It doesn’t matter if he’s a little bit injured, he can change everything,” said Barca’s Gerard Pique about Messi, who strained a hamstring in the first leg.
PSG boss Carlo Ancelotti added that Messi was “always fantastic”. He added that, “We caused them problems but Messi gave his team confidence.”
Cesc Fabregas had started in the attacking role usually occupied by Messi, but his team struggled to break down a PSG side that took the lead in the tie through Javier Pastore’s strike.
Messi’s arrival off the bench, at the expense of the former Arsenal midfielder, signalled the start of Barcelona’s fightback and his precise pass to David Villa led to the strike that ultimately put his side through.
“Messi is the best player in the world and he changed the game just by being on the pitch,” Villa told television channel Canal Plus.
“We have to congratulate him for his show of commitment to the team and to football. It is thanks to him, and everyone else, that we have qualified,” said Villa.
Similarly, Goalscorer Pedro said, “Messi is a very important player and he put in a great effort after coming on.
“He was the catalyst; we changed after he came on and we have to thank him for that.”
Pique believes that despite Messi’s progression through the ranks of club’s famed La Masia academy, Barcelona are fortune to have the four-time world player of the year.
“We are very proud and lucky to have him in our side. He’s our reference as a striker, he can score, he can pass he can do anything and everything,” the defender said.
Barcelona’s success earned them a place in the last four of the Champions League for a record sixth successive season.
The Catalans could be paired with domestic rivals Real Madrid or one of German duo Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich in Friday’s semi-final draw.
The two legged last-four ties will begin on the 23 April before the final at Wembley on 25 May.