By NBF News

Pep Guardiola has hailed Lionel Messi as the greatest player in the world after the Argentina international scored twice in Barcelona's 5-1 mauling of Panathinaikos in their UEFA Champions League group match on Tuesday.

The World Player of the Year picked up where he left off in last year's edition of Europe's elite club competition, when he was the top scorer, pulling Barcelona level after the Greek champions had taken a shock 20th-minute lead and running the visiting defence ragged.

His second goal came after a brilliant passing move that typified Barelona's electric playing style and he created their fifth of the night for defender Daniel Alves with a sublime chip that left the hapless Panathinaikos players rooted to the spot.

It was not all plain sailing for Messi however after he squandered the chance to secure a hat-trick with a poor penalty in the second-half, but nonetheless, Guardiola was full of praise for the 23-year-old.

'He is the best player in the world by some distance from the rest,' Guardiola said. 'It hurts him to miss and he has this amateur spirit of always wanting to play.'