Robert Lewandowski was initially claimed to have described Lionel Messi’s plea for him to be given the 2020 Ballon d’Or retrospectively as “empty words,” but the Bayern Munich striker has now clarified his remarks
Lewandowski had been the favourite alongside the Argentine to go home with the award, having been cruelly unable to win it in 2020 due to the competition being cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Messi said during his acceptance speech: “You were the winner last year and France Football should give you the award. You deserve it, you should have it at home too.”
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Lewandowski was then reported to have aired his frustrations on Polish show Moc Futbolu on TV station Kanale Sportowym, sparking speculation of a rift between the two contenders.
But the 33-year-old has moved to clear up the matter, explaining: “My statement, which I made in an interview with a Polish TV/Viaplay broadcaster, is currently being taken out of context.
“I never said that Lionel Messi’s words were not sincere.
“On the contrary: Lionel Messi’s speech at the event in Paris, in which he expressed that, in his opinion, I deserved the Ballon d’Or 2020, was very kind.
“With my statement, I just wanted to express that I would of course be very happy if Messi’s words were heard.
“I respect and appreciate Lionel Messi beyond measure and once again I would like to congratulate him on winning the Ballon d’Or 2021.”
There was widespread outrage when Messi was announced as the winner last Monday, with Mirror Football in Paris to cover the star-studded ceremony.
“This can not be true. It is a scandalous choice,” the outlet added amid calls to hand him the 2020 award retrospectively.
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He added two more for Bayern in his first game after missing out, bagging a brace against former employers Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, with the home fans jeering the master marksman.
Post-match, manager Julian Nagelsmann declared: “All of this rather spurred him on.
“He scored the significant goals and paid the fans back after all the Messi calls in the stadium.”