The 22-year-old praised the five-time Ballon d’Or winner after the Blaugrana eased past Spurs at Wembley
Harry Winks hailed Lionel Messi as the ‘greatest ever’ after Barcelona dashed Tottenham’s Champions League hopes in Wednesday’s 4-2 win at Wembley.
Messi scored two and made two as Mauricio Pochettino’s team failed to recover from defeat in Milan two weeks ago, falling six points behind the top two in the race to qualify from Group B, and Winks believes his side were ultimately undone by the ‘exceptional’ Argentinean.
Spurs fell 2-0 behind inside the first half at Wembley before Harry Kane halved the arrears shortly after half time, only for Messi to restore Barca’s advantage with a close-range finish. Erik Lamela pulled one back for Tottenham before Messi added a fourth in the final minute.
Winks, who was starting in his first Champions League game of the season, played the full 90 minutes as he continues his rehabilitation from the ankle injury which kept him out of last season’s run-in, and afterwards spoke of his pride at having shared a pitch with the five-time Balon d’Or winner.
“I did enjoy it,” he told the Evening Standard. “To play against him was an honour. The result takes away a lot of the enjoyment from the game, but in years to come, when I look back and say I played against — in my opinion — the greatest player to ever play football, it will be a proud moment.
“It’s so difficult to reflect on that right now because we’ve lost and, ultimately, that’s the most important thing. I’m gutted.
“The only way I can really describe [facing him] is he’s just completed football. The man just knows where everybody is. His weight of pass is just exceptional. He’s just special. But everyone who has played against him has said the same thing for years.”
Winks made five Champions League appearances for Spurs last season on their run to the last-16 where they were eliminated by Juventus, and the 22-year-old England international, who broke into the first team at White Hart Lane in 2016, has relished the opportunity to learn from Europe’s finest as Tottenham seek to establish themselves as a regular presence on the continent.
“For me, it was special to play against a player like that. I learnt a lot from it. I’ll watch the game back and I’ll dissect my game. There were times when I gave the ball away sloppily, which wasn’t good enough.”