Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni has hailed Lionel Messi as "the best player of all time" after scoring one goal and setting up two others in the 3-0 Copa America quarter-final win over Ecuador.
Messi was the architect as La Albiceleste progressed to the Copa semi-finals where they will take on Colombia on Tuesday in Brasilia.
The six-time Ballon d'Or winner set up Rodrigo De Paul for Argentina's 40th-minute opener, before assisting Lautaro Martinez's 85th minute sealer.
Messi grabbed a goal of his own in stoppage-time with a trademark free-kick which took him to 76 international goals in his 149th appearance for La Albiceleste.
WOW. MESSI. MAGIC. 😱😱 pic.twitter.com/upeTw2XsEM— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 4, 2021
"Leo's game, I honestly don't know if he's going to get tired of being praised every day," Scaloni said at the post-game media conference. "The best thing that can happen for us football lovers is that the stars play until any age they can and we enjoy it.
"Messi is enjoyed even by opponents when they play against him. We are talking about the best player of all time.
"It is difficult for a player to be at his level. Neymar may at some point be a similar player but because of what he has done, is doing and will continue to do, we must remember him for who he is."
The win extended Argentina's unbeaten run under Scaloni to 18 games and gives them a shot at ending their 28-year wait for a Copa America title.
La Albiceleste had recorded three wins and a draw in the group stage, including two unconvincing 1-0 victories, and Scaloni was content with a more emphatic result.
"Whoever believes that you can win every game 3-0 easily is wrong especially in this Copa America, which has conditions that are very different," he said.
"I don't know if it's the best moment for the team. It is an instance that we like, it is decisive and we will try to move forward with the utmost humility and work."
Scaloni was wary of semi-final opponents Colombia who won 4-2 on penalties against Uruguay after a goalless draw to secure their spot in the last four.
"I want to emphasize that in this Copa America any of these teams could push any team in the world," he said.
"The level is quite high, it is not like before where the matches were taken for granted that you would win.
"We have already faced Colombia in the [World Cup] qualifiers. Now they will recover [Juan] Cuadrado, it will be difficult and like all matches.
"We hope to play it with the same intensity and enthusiasm, we have an enormous desire to play in the final."