Tito piles the praise on record breaker Messi

Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova heaped praise on Lionel Messi after his brace enabled the Catalans to win 4-2 at Real Mallorca.

Messi’s second goal at the Iberostar Stadium ended a spirited comeback from the home side who had trailed 3-0 at the break.

The Argentinian has now scored 76 goals in 2012, one more than the mark set by Brazil great Pele in 1958 and just nine behind the record set by Bayern Munich and Germany striker Gerd Muller in 1972.

Vilanova said: “Leo continually breaks records. His goal tally is spectacular.

“It takes other great players seven or eight seasons to score the amount of goals he scores in one season.

“Also, some of his goals are absolute beauties.”

Barcelona were criticised following the 2-1 Champions League defeat at Celtic last Wednesday for a lack of variety in their play but Vilanova insisted they do have alternatives to their customary ’tiki-taka’ approach.

He said: “We want to have the ball and always attack, but we don’t always play the same way.

“Within our Plan A, we have a plan B, C, and D … we know how to win.”

Vilanova will have been heartened by the return to the starting line-up of central defender Gerard Pique after he missed the last six La Liga games through injury.

Spain international Pique said: “I felt great physically, I was very comfortable on the pitch.

“In general, we played well and we were the superior side, even though the opening 15 minutes were difficult.

“Seeing that our style of play is based on attacking it’s more difficult to defend, but the goals scored by Mallorca came from two isolated plays.

“Messi’s second goal was good for us because we couldn’t be calm being only one goal up.”

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