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Lionel Messi’s awkward moment with Robert Lewandowski shows true feelings between duo

Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski – Barcelona legends past and present – appeared to share an awkward World Cup moment after a period when the two became rivals

Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi shared an awkward on-field moment at the end of Argentina’s two-goal victory over Poland in the World Cup.

Ultimately both players were able to celebrate as Argentina’s victory ensured they progressed as group winners while Poland squeaked through as runners-up, pipping Mexico to second spot. However, there was an uncomfortable-looking moment between Barcelona legends past and present.

Messi – who was very much in his focused, in-game mode – completely ignored Lewandowski’s attempt at an in-game handshake when fouled by the Poland No.9. As the European side, two goals down and – at that point – reckoning another goal conceded would send them out of the competition, defended for their lives, Lewandowski made two attempts to foul Messi, with the second drawing the referees’ whistle.

Lionel Messi of Argentina battles for possession with Robert Lewandowski

Messi played the freekick quickly and Lewandowski attempted a handshake with the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner twice, before offering some words, seemingly by way of an apology for the foul. However, Messi was having none of it.

Nevertheless, with both teams remaining on the pitch at full time and celebrating their respective places in the round of 16, the two captains were captured sharing a brief acknowledgement on the pitch.

The two superstars – firmly established in football’s elite – have not always seen eye-to-eye with one another, a rivalry partly sparked by contentious individual awards. Ironically, it was Lewandowski who was offered Lewandowski the “Lionel Messi role” at the Camp Nou as he swapped Bayern Munich for Barca – replacing the Argentine, who had left the previous year, as the club’s star forward.

Lewandowski’s attempt at a handshake was blanked by Messi ( Image: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The Poland marksman was crowned 2021 FIFA Best Men’s Player in January last year after Messi had edged him out to win his record-breaking seventh Ballon d’Or title as he landed the 2021 accolade.

That contentious decision was criticised by multiple football legends with Lewandowski feeling harshly done-by as the 2020 Ballon d’Or crown, for which he was heavy favourite to win, was somewhat bizarrely prematurely cancelled due to the Covid pandemic briefly postponing football that year.

It was at this juncture that some level of rivalry emerged between the two. Indeed, Lewandowski claimed that his award was worth more than Messi’s and told a Polish magazine:: “I have been thinking lately and I have come to the conclusion that the FIFA award is more important.

“Only journalists vote for the Ballon d’Or, there is no clear verification. Instead, professional football and the press vote for the FIFA award. The captains and coaches of each national team can evaluate our performances in a more realistic and objective way, because they know how much each match, each record, each injury means.

“Perhaps in the prestigious ranking, the Ballon d’Or is better positioned, but the recognition I received by winning The Best makes me proud because I know how hard I worked for many years.”

Messi and Lewandowski subsequently shared a brief word and embrace on the pitch as their respective teams celebrated progression to the World Cup Round of 16 ( Image: [email protected]://

After the Ballon d’Or award – which Messi narrowly won on points over the Polish striker – German media outlet Bild (Lewandowski was playing for Bayern Munich at the time) highlighted that Messi had not returned Lewandowski’s favour by naming him in his top three players for that year. They alleged that this was a crude tactical move by the Argentine to deprive his rival of points.

The German tabloid wrote “Shame on you, Messi” as he placed his Paris Saint-Germain teammates Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in the top three, alongside Karim Benzema of Real Madrid. Lewandowski, who did give Messi a vote, then revealed that Messi told him he would vote for him in the running – but this never happened.

Lewandowski explained: “I did vote for him because I appreciate what he did this year and before. Messi said he would vote for me for the Ballon d’Or, did his point of view change later? I don’t know. I have no complaints, he made his decision and that’s it. Anyway, I won the award, so it was easier for me to accept it.”

Lewandowski had 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.

“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 Leo Messi beyond measure and once again congratulate him on winning the Ballon d’Or.”

Messi then somewhat reignited the rivalry, when he gave short shrift to Lewandowski’s words when 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.”