“I’ll never forget what he did. Messi is the best in the world and he could have had a hat trick, but he let me take the penalty kick despite being in the middle of a battle for the league’s top goal scorer,” Neymar said via Barcelona’s Web site. “I was speechless. I am very grateful to him for his attitude.”
The two strikers’ affection for each other was apparent on the field on Wednesday, too, when Barcelona beat Bayern Munich, 3-0, in the first leg of their two-match Champions League semifinal series. Messi scored the first two goals (and set a new record in the process), but the biggest celebration came after Neymar swept in the third.
Messi ran to his teammate and playfully roughed him to the ground, where eventually the third and newest member of Barcelona’s starting XI strikers, Suarez, joined them to celebrate.
Hugs are common between the three after they score goals, which could be because the three are friends off-the-field, as well.
“Messi is the best friend I have, both at Barca and away from the soccer pitch,” Neymar said (via Goal.com) in February.
In October, Neymar said (via ESPN), “Luis is a star.”
Likewise, Messi referred to Neymar as a “fabulous guy” in a press conference last October. “We have a good relationship on and off the pitch.”
About Suarez, Messi said (via Bleacher Report) in April that his presence on the field alongside Neymar makes him “calm,” a word many might not associate with the 28-year-old Uruguayan striker who got in trouble last year for biting his opponent in the World Cup. Now, Suarez seems to only be using his teeth to smile.
“Let’s go! What a good victory and great work from the whole team,” Suarez captioned a selfie of himself and Messi on Instagram after the team’s Champions League victory on Wednesday. “Here’s a picture of me with the best in the world!”
Messi, Neymar and Suarez have had a lot to hug about lately. The three combined have scored a total of 111 goals against their opponents in La Liga, Champions League and Spanish Cup play. In comparison, Real Madrid’s top strikers, Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, who’s actually a midfielder, have a total of 93.
“Messi, Suarez and Neymar are doing great,” Barca coach Luis Enrique said in April (via Goal.com) just before the trio surpassed the 99-goal total racked up by Messi, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o in the 2008-09 season. ” I am very happy with them.”
The trio’s chemistry has also been noticed by their teammates.
“The attacking three players we have are special, the most special I have ever seen,” Danie Alves, who routinely sets up goals for the trio, said in an interview with Sport 360 this week.
“The top three are three beasts,” midfielder Xavi said (via Goal.com) in January.
But beasts with a tender side, especially for Messi. His hugs have become so trademark that the shampoo brand Head & Shoulders even featured the star’s hugging fans in an ad campaign last year.
This post was updated to correct an error in the score of the Barcelona vs. Cordoba match.