Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has said he will do all he can to help Celtic make it through to the next round of the Champions League – because he was blown away by their fans’ loyal support
The Camp Nou favourite was speaking ahead of the Catalan club’s final group game against Benfica on Wednesday and vowed not to let up against the Portuguese, despite his side already having finished top of the group.
Celtic have a home tie with Spartak Moscow and must equal of better Benfica;s result at the La Liga leader, so a Barcelona win would mean Neil Lennon’s side only needing a point at Park head.
It is already a tall order for the Portuguese side and Messi’s words will be a comfort to the Scottish champions – the Argentina captain revealed he was keen to see Celtic progress because of the noise their fans made in Camp Nou.
Celtic fans have a reputation for being vociferously loyal, especially on European nights, but Messi admitted he had never experienced such behaviour from fans and though the Champions League would be better off with them still in it.
The 25-year-old also admitted he was initially not so kind about the style of football Lennon charged his side with carrying out, but admitted the passionate fans made this less of an issue.
“The Celtic fans deserve to be in Europe. They have been amazing in both games we have played against them recently,” he is quoted as saying in the Daily Record.
“We knew what they were going to be like in Glasgow. But the way they were in Barcelona after they had just lost in the way they did was amazing – I have never seen anything like that before.
“We have not always been supportive of the way that Celtic try and play football. However, their fans deserve the knockout stages of the Champions League as I think the competition would be a quieter place without them.”
Messi also has personal reasons for succeeding int he game against Benfica, as he is just a single goal behind Gerd Muller record for goals scored in a calendar year.
The Barcelona superstar scored a brace in the 5-2 demolition of Athletic Bilbao in La Liga at the weekend, taking his tally to 84 for 2012.
Another brace against Benfica would see him set a new milestone and he would even have the rest of December to add to it.
Neil Lennon and Celtic will be hoping history is made in the Camp Nout – their Champions League future may depend on it.