Messi is even better than Pele and Maradona, says Ardiles

Lionel Messi will go down as the greatest player in footballing history, better even than Diego Maradona and Pele, according to the former Argentina and Tottenham midfielder Ossie Ardiles, who claims Barcelona's Messi is similar to their fellow countryman Maradona – except better.

Ardiles, who helped nurture Maradona for the national side, said yesterday: "I think there is only one player you can compare with Messi, and that is Maradona, and in many ways they are very similar. But for some time I have thought that Diego could never be surpassed, and nor could Pele, but no longer. I would now say that Lionel Messi will go down in history as the No 1 player of all time, the best that there ever was.

"The big difference is that Maradona played in Argentina, then in Italy, while Pele stayed in Brazil, and during their time the pressures were less intense than they are now. Messi is under pressure all the time, and has to play in incredibly high-intensity games all of the time, the Champions League being the perfect example."

European football's governing body, Uefa, dispatched the Italian refereeing great Pierluigi Collina to monitor Belgian match official Frank de Bleeckere's handling of last night's Champions League semi-final second leg between Messi's side and Real Madrid. Uefa named Collina, its head of referees and a former World Cup final referee, as its official observer at the Nou Camp.

Uefa's disciplinary panel will meet on Friday to examine six charges arising from the first-leg match. Real's manager, Jose Mourinho, faces further punishment for his comments during and after the match. The Real midfielder Pepe also faces a longer ban for his red-card challenge, and Madrid have been charged over their fans throwing objects and invading the pitch. Barcelona's goalkeeper Jose Pinto has been charged over his part in a touchline brawl.