April 12, 2010 / 8:34 AM / 9 years ago

Only machine gun can halt Messi magic, says Stoichkov

Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts after missing a chance to score against Real Madrid during their Spanish first division match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid April 10, 2010. REUTERS/Felix Ordonez

SOFIA (Reuters) - Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is in such magical form that opposition defences would need a machine gun to stop him, said former European Footballer of the Year Hristo Stoichkov.

Messi’s remarkable season continued when he set Barcelona on their way to a 2-0 win at Real Madrid in Spain’s Clasico on Saturday, four days after the Argentine’s brilliant four-goal Champions League haul against Arsenal.

Stoichkov led Bulgaria to the semi-finals of the 1994 World Cup and his performances prompted Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi to say it would take a gun to stop him.

“Once they said they can only stop me with a pistol, but today you need a machine gun to stop him,” former Barca striker Stoichkov told Bulgarian Trud daily Monday.

The 44-year-old became a favourite at the Nou Camp for his aggressive approach to the game and his outspoken criticism of rivals Real Madrid.

Stoichkov was a key member of the “Dream Team” coached by Johan Cruyff that won the Spanish league title four years in succession in the early 1990s.

“What to comment on the game? Some were kicking like donkeys, others were playing football,” Stoichkov said when asked to analyse the match at the Bernabeu.

“Money doesn’t play football. Real’s hundreds of millions were not enough for a single goal.”

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing Peter Rutherford

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