Robert Lewandowski has questioned whether winner Lionel Messi was sincere with his praise towards him after beating the Bayern Munich striker to the 2021 Ballon d’Or award.
Messi claimed the coveted accolade for a record-extending seventh time last week, with Lewandowski finishing second as he settled for the inaugural Striker of the Year award.
Lewandowski was somewhat unfortunate to miss out to Messi, having scored 53 times in 42 games for Bayern between the start of 2021 and the award being handed out.
That was the most of any player in Europe’s top five leagues across all competitions, with Messi – who won the Copa America with Argentina – joint-fifth on the list with 32 goals.
Poland international Lewandowski averaged a goal every 67 minutes over the same period. Among those with 10 goals or more, club-mate Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was the next-most regular scorer, netting every 84 minutes.
Lewandowski would also have been favourite to win the award last year had it not been scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In his acceptance speech when collecting the award, Messi said Lewandowski deserved a Ballon d’Or of his own for his exploits in 2020.
“Last year, everyone was in agreement to say that [Lewandowski was] the big winner,” Messi said. “Hopefully [France Football] give you the Ballon d’Or 2020.”
— Ballon d’Or #ballondor (@francefootball) December 4, 2021
However, Lewandowski appeared unmoved by those comments from Messi and admitted to feeling upset about once again missing out on football’s top individual honour.
“I felt sadness,” he told Polish channel Kanal Sportowy. “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.
“I’m not that enthusiastic about getting the 2020 award. I would like [Messi’s statement] to be a sincere and courteous statement from a great player and not just empty words.”
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