Messi: Guardiola will always have my respect

The Argentine says he will forever cherish the success he enjoyed under the 41-year-old, underlining the impact his boss has made on his career over the past four years
Lionel Messi has revealed that his respect for Pep Guardiola is unconditional, with the Barcelona forward speaking of his admiration for the outgoing coach.

The former midfielder will depart Camp Nou at the end of the season and was given a huge display of affection from the Blaugrana players and supporters during Saturday's 4-0 win over Espanyol, which was his last in Catalunya.

Messi immediately ran over to the trainer and hugged him in the aftermath of his fourth goal against his side's neighbours, and he admitted to Tencent Weibo that he will remain forever indebted to Guardiola for everything he has given him in football.

"Pep will always have my respect. I will always cherish him," said Messi.

"He has been massively important in my career. I am grateful to all of whom I've made happy with my goals."

The dynamic attacker also took to social networking platforms to pay tribute to Guardiola, including Twitter, where he posted a photograph of his embrace with the coach and wrote: "It has been a great pleasure to share so many moments with Pep over these last few years."

Messi's four-goal haul against Espanyol puts him on 72 goals this season in all competitions, and the Argentine could yet add to his tally before the end of the campaign.