Tony Watt on ‘natural genius’ Lionel Messi and that unforgettable night at Celtic Park

Messi: The King of Camp Nou by Jason Pettigrove is published this month (in English) and The Celtic Star has two extracts from the book featuring Tony Watt on that night in Paradise and his own thoughts on Lionel Messi and  Celtic legend Kenny Dalglish talking about that remarkable Champions League semi-final from a few years ago when Liverpool overturned a big Barcelona first leg lead to reach the final and of course go on to lift the trophy.

Lionel Messi and Fraser Forster during the Champions League game between Celtic and Barcelona from Celtic Park on 7 November 2012. Photo Vagelis Georgariou.

“I guarantee this will be the best book on Leo Messi you haven’t yet read.” Graham Hunter

“You can fit Pelé’s best moments into a one-hour video, or you can make a two-hour video for the best of Maradona. With Messi’s best, it’s a 24-hour long video.” Jorge Barraza

“He was born to play football and it’s on the field where we see the happiest version of Lionel. It’s what he does best and what gives him the most joy.” Lionel Scaloni

“I don’t think any have been better than Lionel Messi.” Kenny Dalglish

Glasgow, Scotland. Victor Wanyama, Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba and Andres Iniesta during the Champions League game between Celtic and Barcelona from Celtic Park. Photo Vagelis Georgariou.

Widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time, seven-time Ballon d’Or and six-time Golden Shoe winner, Lionel Messi, enjoyed a record-breaking 17-year career at FC Barcelona during which time he scored more goals, played more games, won more titles and provided more assists than any other player in the Catalan club’s history.

Adored by Barça fans, Messi reigned supreme until August 2021, when he made a tearful farewell to a stunned global audience.

Messi: The King of Camp Nou is the definitive story of Lionel Messi’s entire Barça career, written by Jason Pettigrove, a football journalist who worked for FC Barcelona during Messi’s final years in Catalonia.

Barcelona fans in action during the Champions League game between Celtic and Barcelona from Celtic Park. Photo Vagelis Georgariou.

Charting Messi’s rise as a hopeful 13-year-old Argentinian boy from Rosario to becoming the best footballer in the world, Pettigrove’s comprehensively researched book features exclusive interviews with key individuals in Messi’s story – team-mates, opponents, managers, agents and fellow journalists – including: Joan Laporta, Lionel Scaloni, Victor Font, Sir Kenny Dalglish, Jamie Carragher, Mike Phelan, Josep Maria Minguella, Horacio Gaggioli, Tony Watt, Santi Padro and Jorge Barraza.

From being signed by Barça on a napkin to Champions League glory and becoming FC Barcelona captain, Messi: The King of Camp Nou reveals the inside story of Leo’s remarkable reign at Barça including breaking Pelé’s incredible record for most goals scored at one club, how the longed for Copa América title was won and how he, season-on-season, mesmerised the football world.

Some of Jason Pettigrove’s interview with Tony Watt is featured below, exclusively on The Celtic Star….

Celtic 2-1 Barcelona – Champions League – 7 November 2012 

This match speaks for itself. Quite possibly the greatest result in Celtic history, aside from the European Cup final, given the circumstances. Top scorer, Gary Hooper, Skipper, Scott Brown and ever-present, Izzaguirre were all out injured. Adam Matthews had to play at left back, Joe Ledley played in central midfield and Miku played up front.

Celtic took the lead, just as they did in the Nou Camp, when Victor Wanyama powered in a header from Charlie Mulgrew’s corner. Lennon then brought on youth team graduate, Tony Watt as a substitute and he scored THAT goal to put Celtic two ahead.

Tony Watt celebrates his goal in  the Champions League game between Celtic and Barcelona from Celtic Park.on 7 November 2012. Photo Vagelis Georgariou.

Messi pulled one back for the best team in the world, but it was too little too late as Lennon masterminded an unbelievable victory over the greatest club side on the planet, all the while having to rejig his team thanks to injuries. The match was played in front of the best atmosphere that the new Celtic Park has ever seen, with an incredible pre-match tifo display encompassing the whole stadium.

It was just a perfect night to mark 125 years of the club’s unbroken existence. As a foot note, the Celtic defence consisted of a right back having to switch sides, Efe Ambrose and Kelvin Wilson at centre back, with Lustig on the right. They were up against Messi, Sanchez and Pedro!

Here’s Tony Watt’s comments from what was an unforgettable night at Celtic Park, as told to Jason Pettigrove’ in his new book Messi The King of Camp Nou…

Tony Watt and Victor Valdes in action during the Champions League game between Celtic and Barcelona from Celtic Park. Photo Vagelis Georgariou.

“They were 11 players who were miles ahead of us, and we had to look to stifle every single one. We had to make sure that they didn’t play like they usually do,” Tony Watt began. “Everything came together, it was just perseverance on our part, not giving up and I know it’s easy to say, just giving our best. Something like that doesn’t happen every year, more like once every 20-30 years, but we had the luck.

“Barcelona were amazing, you could see that, just everything went our way on the night,” Watt said.

“I was happy to get on the pitch. We’d hoped for a positive result, maybe a draw or to nick a goal, but we certainly didn’t go into the game thinking we were going to win it. Neil [Lennon] told me I would get on at some point because we had a lot of injuries.

“I didn’t really know when that would be because you can never really know what will happen during a game and things sometimes occur that you don’t expect, but obviously I did play and I think I did quite well.

Tony Watt scores as Javier Mascherano runs to challenge. Photo Vagelis Georgariou.

“The goal was one of my best moments, but making my debut was probably better. I don’t really remember too much about the goal because of how long ago it was, and even at the time, everything happened so quickly that it was all a bit of a blur.

“Playing Barça was great because of the players we had in front of us who we knew were capable of getting a couple of goals at any time.

“As for Messi… for me, he’s the best ever. I think everyone appreciates greatness. A lot of people speak about Ronaldo, but Messi is much more natural. A genius,” Tony Watt added.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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