Lionel Messi publicly pleaded with Ballon d’Or organisers to give Robert Lewandowski the award for 2020, but insists he didn’t deserve to win it 12 months later
Lionel Messi is adamant he deserved to beat Robert Lewandowski to the Ballon d’Or last year and said he’s ‘not interested’ in any argument otherwise.
Lewandowski was the overwhelming favourite to be recognised as the world’s best player in 2020, having guided Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB Pokal. But the prolific Polish talisman was denied the award when it was decided the ceremony would temporarily cancelled amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
A year later, the wantaway Bayern striker was again in the running, only to be snubbed in favour of Messi – despite scoring 46 times on the way to another trophy-laden season.
Messi was instead given the gong for a record seventh time, having helped Argentina to the Copa America, receiving 613 points compared to Lewandowski’s 580 points. Lewandowski was open about his disappointment following the snub, despite Messi publicly pleading with ceremony organisers to award his rival with the 2020 honour.
“I felt sadness,” Lewandowski told Polish outlet Kanale Sportowym last year. “I can’t deny it. I can’t say I was happy, on the contrary. I have a feeling of sadness.
“To be so close, to compete with Messi, of course I respect how he plays and what he has achieved. The mere fact that I was able to compete with him shows me the level that I was able to reach.”
Lewandowski then made headlines when he suggested Messi’s request could be “empty words” before subsequently backtracking. “I’m not that enthusiastic about [the chances] of getting the 2020 award.
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“I would like it [Messi’s 2020 Ballon d’Or statement] to be a sincere and courteous statement from a great player and not just empty words.” He then clarified his comments to Kicker, in an attempt to de-escalate the row between the two superstars.
“I never wanted to say that Lionel Messi’s words were not sincere or serious,” he said. “On the contrary, I was very touched and delighted by Lionel Messi’s speech at the event in Paris, in which he expressed that, in his opinion, I deserved the Ballon d’Or 2020 I just wanted to express my statement that I would of course be very happy if Messi’s words would be heard.
“I respect and appreciate Lionel Messi beyond measure and once again congratulate him on winning the Ballon d’Or.”
But Messi insists that while Lewandowski should have won the award the year previous, he was the correct winner in 2021 – claiming he was the best player, despite Barcelona finishing third in LaLiga and failing to make a mark in the Champions League.
He told TyC Sports: “Everyone says what they want and obviously he can express himself and say what he wants. I honestly do not share what he said, but I did not give him more importance either. That’s it, he stayed there and he says what he wants and I’m not interested.
“But the words I said at that time were from the heart and because I really felt that way . I said that he deserved the Ballon d’Or before, because the previous year had seemed to me that it had been the best, but the year that I won it, he was not the best. I just said that.”
As for the award this year, Messi is under no illusions that he shouldn’t pick up an eighth and instead tipped his old El Clasico rival Karim Benzema. The French forward has enjoyed a stunning campaign, scoring 15 times in the Champions League alone, as Los Blancos won a 14th European crown at the expense of Liverpool last weekend.
He explained: “I think there are no doubts, it is very clear that Benzema had a spectacular year and ended up with the Champions League, being essential from the last 16 onwards in all the games. I think there are no doubts this year.”