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The converted centre-half is buoyed by the fact that even though his compatriot 'plays a different sport' to everyone else, he remains a very humble individual

Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano has saluted Lionel Messi for the way in which he has managed to keep his feet on the ground in spite of his astounding goalscoring record this season.

The Rosario native struck four times in Saturday night's Liga victory over Espanyol at Camp Nou to take his tally in all competitions this season to a staggering 72.

Mascherano, though, believes that the truly remarkable thing about his fellow Argentine that he has now allowed his success to go to his head.

"I even asked if he knew he had scored 72 goals in a season," the former Liverpool man is quoted as saying by Mundo Deportivo.

"Although he may not be human, it's good that Messi still thinks he is. Messi plays another sport."

The game against Espanyol was also significant for the fact that it was Pep Guardiola's final home game as boss and the club paid tribute to the outgoing coach in a special ceremony just after the full-time whistle.

Mascherano, for his part, was delighted that Guardiola was given such a fine send-off as he remains incredibly grateful for the way in which he has converted him into a top-class centre-half after arriving in Catalunya in 2010 from Anfield as a defensive midfielder.

"Pep is a man of this house and feel the club's colors more than anyone," he explained. "So, the farewell was well deserved.

"There is a 'before' and an 'after Guardiola' in terms of my career. He has converted me into the kind of player that I could never have imagined becoming.

"In 20 or 30 years, they will talk of the Barca of Messi or Pep, and that's the nicest thing, more so than any the title."

Guardiola has led the Blaugrana to 13 title since taking charge in 2008 and could yet add a 14th, with a Copa del Rey final to come against Athletic Bilbao on May 25.

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