Wenger: Messi is the best player in the world by a distance
Lionel Messi shattered Arsenal?s Champions League dreams last night with a four-goal super-show in the Nou Camp.
Barcelona superstar Messi scored an incredible treble in the space of 21 first half minutes, then added a fourth three minutes from time to dump Arsene Wenger?s side out of their quarter final.
Messi's sheer brilliance overwhelmed Arsenal as the magical Argentinian once again delivered a performance that proved he is determined to live up to his reputation as the best player in the world.
Wenger hailed Messi as the world's No.1 player - and unstoppable.
He said: "Over the two games for a team like Arsenal we gave some really cheap goals away.
"At 1-0 up we had a good counter- attack and made the wrong choice.
"But basically they did not have to work hard enough for their goals.
"And when you face players like Messi, you can pay for any mistake.
"Messi is the best player in the world by a distance. The difficulty with him is that he is not always in the game, but when he is in it, he is really dangerous.
"His team gets him on the run with the ball and once he is on the ball he is unstoppable. When he changes direction at such pace no-one can stay with him.
"Congratulations to Barcelona- they were better than us."
Arsenal stunned the European champions by taking an 18th minute lead when Nicklas Bendtner silenced the Nou Camp with a breakaway goal.
But their celebrations were short lived as Messi equalised in the 21st minute with a 20 yard wonder strike past keeper Manuel Almunia.
Messi scored his second after a dazzling piece of skill in the 37th minute and then chipped Almunia after leading a break five minutes later.
It was far more than patched-up Arsenal could handle and Messi completed the rout with a determined solo effort in the 87th-minute.
Bendtner saluted Messi, describing his display as ?phenomenal.? He added: ?Barcelona were stronger than us tonight. It?s tough when you fall behind at the Nou Camp.?
Defender Sol Campbell had failed a pre-match fitness test on his hamstring injury and Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas, Andrey Arshavin and William Gallas were all missing from the first leg team.
Wenger was forced to use Mikael Silvstre in central defence and the veteran Frenchman was hopelessly undone by Barcelona and Messi in particular as the Arsenal manager?s pre-match optimism was shot to pieces.
The Gunners bravely refused to buckle in the second half but never looked like getting themselves back into the game as Barcelona became sloppy and slipped into cruise control.
But there was still time for Messi to add another goal late on.
The European exit is a hammer blow to Arsenal?s chances of silverware this season as the Premier League title is now Wenger?s last hope.
They now have five more league games left starting with next Wednesday?s north London derby at Tottenham.Wenger will have to pick up his walking wounded and overcome last night?s huge setback to try and desperately save their season