Barcelona: Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola has admitted that Lionel Messi is the best player he has ever seen - and probably the greatest that he is ever likely to see.
The Argentine netted his 73rd goal of the season in Friday`s 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Copa del Rey, a triumph which ensured that Guardiola`s tenure ended on a winning note.
The 41-year-old has led the Catalans to 14 titles in four seasons but he humbly claimed that he was learning from Messi during that time, and not the other way around.
"It has been an honour to be the coach of the best player I have ever seen and probably the best I will see," Guardiola told reporters after the game.
"Messi taught me to be even more competitive. We would have won trophies without him, but not 14 from 19."
Barca`s campaign has been deemed as a failure by some pundits given they were dethroned as European and Spanish champions, by Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively, but Guardiola argued that the team has actually progressed this year.
"Football-wise, this has been the best season," he stated. "We introduced new concepts. And next season, we`ll be even better."
It was then put to Guardiola that he had created the greatest footballing side the game has ever seen, but he was reluctant to accept such an accolade.
"I didn`t invent anything," he insisted. "I`m just part of a process that started before me and will continue after me."
"And the best team in history? Would be pretentious to call us that. Those are big words."
Guardiola also reiterated his intention to take a year out from the game, admitting that he is need of a break.
"I`m tired - that`s why I`ll stop for a while now," he explained. "But I am very satisfied with the 14 trophies, and how we won them."
Guardiola succeeded Frank Rijkaard as Barca boss in 2008, after spending a year in charge of the club`s B team.