Lionel Messi was likened to Rafael Nadal by Lionel Scaloni after scoring all five of Argentina's goals in a 5-0 friendly rout of Estonia on Sunday.

Barcelona legend Messi moved to 86 international goals, two more than Hungary legend Ferenc Puskas, now leaving him fourth on the all-time men's list.

Messi's exploits occurred on the same day as tennis legend Rafael Nadal defeated Casper Ruud in straight sets to win a 14th French Open title and extend his record for most men's grand slam titles to 22.

For Argentina boss Scaloni, there are simply no more superlatives left for him to describe either man's seismic impact on the world of sports.

"I don't know what else to say. It's very difficult; it's like Rafa Nadal, what are you going to say?" Scaloni told TVP.

"It is preferable that the journalists speak, that they speak. You have no words left to describe it, and above all, for everything it generates."

The result saw Argentina extend their unbeaten run to 33 matches, fine form just five months out from the start of the World Cup in Qatar.

Messi had completed his hat-trick early in the second half before scoring twice more in the final 20 minutes.

Scaloni added of his talisman: "He is something unique, and it is a pleasure to have him in this group. It is a pleasure to train him, the entire coaching staff. And it's a pleasure his behaviour and how he toasts to his shirt.

"We only have words of thanks. I don't think he's just the heritage of Argentina; he's the heritage of the world, of world football. The day he doesn't play anymore, we are going to miss him."

Lionel Messi scored all five goals as Argentina made it 33 matches unbeaten with a 5-0 friendly win over Estonia on Sunday.

Coach Lionel Scaloni's side set a new national record of 32 matches unbeaten with the 3-0 Finalissima win over Italy on Wednesday, and they never looked like failing to extend that run – the longest currently intact in international football – against a limited Estonia outfit.

Messi got them on their way from the penalty spot, before doubling his tally with a sumptuous finish on the stroke of half-time.

He completed a treble early in the second half, before adding further goals inside the final 20 minutes as Argentina cruised to victory at Estadio El Sadar in Pamplona, Spain.

Argentina wasted little time in stamping their authority on the game, Messi stroking home from the spot in the eighth minute after Estonia goalkeeper Matvei Igonen wiped out German Pezzella.

Messi grabbed his second in the 45th minute, the Paris Saint-Germain forward superbly curling over Igonen from 10 yards after being played in by Alejandro Gomez.

Argentina's captain and talisman sealed a hat-trick two minutes after the interval, steering home Nahuel Molina's cross from the right wing from 10 yards.

Julian Alvarez and Rodrigo de Paul went close for La Albiceleste, before Messi netted a fourth with a cool finish past Igonen in the 71st minute after taking advantage of uncertainty in the Estonia defence.

He put the seal on a remarkable individual performance to make it 5-0 five minutes later, slotting home from 12 yards after a scramble in the opposition penalty area.

What does it mean? Argentina lay down World Cup marker

Despite not winning the World Cup since 1986, Argentina are among the favourites to triumph in Qatar later this year.

They will need to overcome significantly sterner opposition than Estonia to get their hands on the trophy, yet all the signs point to them being a side to be reckoned with, particularly if Messi plays like this.

Magical Messi

He had a subdued season with PSG, scoring just 11 goals across all competitions, but Messi was at his electric best here. The 34-year-old scored with all five of his shots on target, while he also made three key passes – a tally bettered only by team-mate Alejandro Gomez.

Wasteful Alvarez

New Manchester City signing Alvarez will hope Messi's finishing prowess rubs off on him, with the 22-year-old failing to find the back of the net with his four shots – three of which were on target.

What's next?

Argentina's attention turns towards Qatar 2022, although their warm-up games for the tournament have yet to be scheduled, while Estonia face Malta in the Nations League on Thursday.

Carlos Tevez has confirmed his retirement from football at the age of 38, citing the death of his father as the reason why he turned down offers to continue playing.

Tevez enjoyed a glittering career, particularly in England where he played for both Manchester United and Manchester City.

As well as three separate spells at boyhood club Boca Juniors, he also spent time at Corinthians, West Ham United, Juventus and Shanghai Shenhua.

Tevez played his final game for Boca Juniors in 2021 before saying goodbye, though at the time he left the door open for a move to another team.

However, in quotes relayed by Mundo Albiceleste, Tevez said on Friday that even though he had received offers from Major League Soccer in the United States, he had stopped playing because he no longer had his "number one fan" after the passing of his father.

"I have retired, it's confirmed," he said. "They offered me many things, including from the United States. But that's it, I have given everything.

"Playing the last year was very difficult but I was able to see my old man. I stopped playing because I lost my number one fan."

Tevez won a remarkable 26 titles in his career and is among only four Argentine players to win both the CONMEBOL Libertadores Cup and the Champions League, lifting the biggest prize in European club football with United in 2008.

He also played at two World Cups for Argentina, in 2006 and 2010.

Roberto Mancini vowed to start a new era with Italy as the Azzurri look to rediscover their Euro 2020 magic, but warned not to expect instant fixes as he cannot "invent players".

Italy lifted the European Championship last July, their first since 1968, with a penalty shoot-out victory over England at Wembley.

The Azzurri followed that up by failing to make a second straight World Cup, following play-off defeat to North Macedonia in March, which led to questions over coach Mancini's tenure.

Development problems were also cited with the Italian system, which was bemoaned for struggling to produce younger players for the national team with Serie A coaches reluctant to trust the youth.

Italy were 3-0 losers to Argentina in the 'Finalissima' on Wednesday, a meeting between the Euro 2020 winners and Copa America champions, and Mancini promised change after that game.

The former Manchester City coach reiterated his desire for new beginnings with Italy, although he does not expect quick solutions ahead of the Nations League opener at home to Germany on Saturday.

"The victory of the European Championship is part of the magic that are part of those tournaments. Now we have to start again and go back to that magic," he told reporters on Friday.

"I have never had this type of problem. In football, however, when you win everyone is with you and when you lose almost everyone against you. That's how it is.

"Against Argentina we paid for the loss of players, one after the other. We weren't such a huge group and the injuries affected us: Argentina were better than us, they had fresher players and maybe it's the first game in three and a half years where we find a team that has put us under pressure, even if we made two mistakes on goals in the first half.

"It takes time, we cannot invent players and we know that we will have to suffer enough.

"The restart is from now. The new cycle starts again from tomorrow.

"The common thread is the same: looking for players with quality, speed, who they will not be like [Marco] Verratti and Jorginho who played in certain teams and therefore it will take a little longer.

"If we can give some minutes to these guys who have never played in the national team, and see them integrated well, it would be better."

Italy host Germany and Hungary before visiting England on June 11, with a return trip to Hansi Flick's side three days later capping off the internationals for this month.

Mancini believes that England and Germany pose two of the toughest tasks in international football at the moment, and cited Brazil, France and Argentina among the favourites for the World Cup in Qatar.

"We face the two strongest teams at the moment, Germany and England," he added. "They are among the best, they have great players and we take a lot of risks by changing a lot, it could be a good start.

"The most important thing will be to defend well and attack better. We face one of the strongest teams in the world along with Brazil, Argentina, France...

"Germany are technical, very fast when they counter-attack and come to press. They will be among the favourites for the World Cup victory in Qatar.

"We must defend all together and attack and press as we did for three and a half years: we did it for three and a half years with players who didn't seem able to do it, yet they have done."

Roberto Baggio has labelled Italy not qualifying automatically for the World Cup for their Euro 2020 triumph as "madness".

Italy were penalty shoot-out victors against England in the Euro 2020 last July, but followed that up with World Cup play-off qualifying defeat against North Macedonia in March.

That meant the Azzurri have failed to qualify for two straight World Cups, having missed out on both Russia in 2018 and Qatar four years later.

Roberto Mancini's side met the Copa America winners Argentina on Wednesday in a match between the champions of European and South American football, but were thoroughly outclassed in a 3-0 defeat.

Argentina displayed the gulf in class between the two sides, with some suggesting Lionel Scaloni's side could be favourites for the World Cup in November.

Scaloni declared in the build-up to the 'Finalissima' that Italy deserved a World Cup spot, and Baggio echoed those sentiments by suggesting the Azzurri should have been offered automatic qualification.

"The biggest shame is that Italy didn't go straight to Qatar having won the European Championship," Italy legend Baggio said on Thursday, as quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"It is scandalous, it seems crazy to me. Will these guys have earned a reward or not? If I had been in their place I don't really know how I would have reacted...

"It's the worst thing to accept, because in a 90-minute match anything can happen, one action goes wrong and you stay at home?"

Baggio was also quick to point towards the difference in quality between Argentina and Italy at Wembley Stadium.

"Scaloni's team has great talents, but the Azzurri have suffered greatly from being eliminated from the World Cup, the psychological backlash it was enormous," he added.

"The level of calmness of the two teams on the pitch was not comparable."

Italy will hope to somewhat make amends for the Argentina loss and World Cup failure when they host Germany in their Nations League opener on Saturday.

Plans for the Women's Finalissima have been confirmed after the inaugural men's match was declared "a success" by UEFA and CONMEBOL.

Argentina defeated Italy 3-0 at Wembley on Wednesday in a meeting between the winners of the Copa America and the European champions.

A hugely impressive Albiceleste display contributed to an event that both organisations were pleased with.

UEFA and CONMEBOL have subsequently announced three further intercontinental matches, headlined by the Women's Finalissima between the victors at the Women's Euro 2022 and the 2022 Copa America Femenina.

There will also be an encounter at Montevideo's Estadio Centenario as the youth team of Penarol, the 2022 Under-20 Copa Libertadores champions, take on 2022 UEFA Youth League winners Benfica in August.

Meanwhile, a four-team futsal tournament is planned between European champions Portugal, Spain, South American champions Argentina and Paraguay at the Movistar Arena in Buenos Aires this September.

A statement added: "UEFA and CONMEBOL have also agreed to continue with the exchange of referees for a variety of competitions and referees' courses following the excellent results of the exchange and the positive feedback received from the officials involved.

"Furthermore, UEFA and CONMEBOL are currently working on the mutual recognition of coaching qualifications with the aim of this coming into effect in the course of 2023, in accordance with an agreed timeline and set of requirements."

Giorgio Chiellini bowed out of international football and warned a "difficult period" awaited Italy as Roberto Mancini bids to get the Azzurri back on track.

The joy of winning last year's delayed Euro 2020 tournament has been replaced by rapid deflation after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Having also missed out on the Russia 2018 finals, falling short of a place at Qatar 2022 represented crushing disappointment for the four-time winners.

Chiellini, the 37-year-old defensive titan who is leaving Juventus and expected to join Los Angeles FC, has called time on his Italy career.

He played the first half on Wednesday in a 3-0 defeat to Argentina at Wembley, in a match tagged as the Finalissima, a clash of the champions of Europe and South America.

"We were hoping to win the match and the trophy," Chiellini told Italian broadcaster RAI. "We knew it would be tough, but the defeat does not cancel what has gone before.

"Now I expect a difficult period. We need everyone to support this group."

Chiellini lasted just 45 minutes in his farewell game, with Italy 2-0 up by the time he departed.

This was the first staging of the CONMEBOL/UEFA 'Cup of Champions' since 1993. Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala got the goals as Lionel Messi pulled the strings

It was a sorry way for Chiellini to go out, and he said: "It's a shame because in the first half we made a lot of mistakes and we ruined the match by ourselves."

Turning his attention to Argentina, he added: "Above all, at this moment they are too strong, they have confidence and they are a team. They look like us a year ago."

Italy, without Chiellini, will switch their focus to the Nations League. They face Germany on Saturday and again on June 14 – matches against Hungary and England are sandwiched in between.

Writing on his Instagram page, Chiellini reflected on the end of a 117-cap career.

He wrote: "Thanks to everyone, it's been a beautiful journey."

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni insisted his side can compete with any team at the World Cup, after their 3-0 win over Italy in the UEFA/CONMEBOL Finalissima at Wembley on Wednesday.

The Albiceleste were ruthless in transition, pouncing on any opportunity to counter, with first-half goals from Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria capped off by Paulo Dybala's second-half injury-time strike.

Argentina set a new national team record in the process, now moving to 32 matches unbeaten.

On the back of 2021's Copa America triumph, Scaloni said that while his team is strong as any heading into Qatar, success will only come through spirit.

"What counts is the spirit of sacrifice, struggle and team spirit shown by the group, beyond the results," he told ESPN Argentina. "What we want is a performance, to know what the team is looking for on the pitch.

"There is, perhaps, too much enthusiasm [in the public], because in football when you think everything is done, they take you down with a stroke of the pen. We do know that we are going to go to a World Cup to compete on an equal footing with any team.

"We believe that the confidence of winning frees you from many things, but we are not exempt from the fact that the team can block itself at some point and that is what worries me. We have to be prepared in case fate takes a turn."

The South American champions faced difficulty as the game compressed despite the majority of possession. Chiefly through Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria, they sprung into life whenever space opened.

Much like their struggles late in the World Cup qualification phase – which culminated in playoff elimination at the hands of North Macedonia – Italy looked lifeless without Marco Verratti on the other hand, managing only one shot in the penalty area.

Scaloni conceded the result belied certain aspects of his team's performances, but is buoyed by a similar spirit that propelled the team to success in Brazil last year.

"I don't know if it's the best game we played," he said post-match. "In the first half I think they put us in trouble, at times. We feel comfortable afterwards.

"I want that every time we get together we are in the same way, united as we are now. The World Cup is going to be something else, it has a different pressure. Now people enjoy and it is the most important thing for us."

Italy coach Roberto Mancini promised changes after a difficult few months for the Azzurri was compounded by a crushing defeat to Argentina in Wednesday's Finalissima.

Argentina were comprehensive 3-0 winners at Wembley, as the CONMEBOL/UEFA 'Cup of Champions' was revived for the first time since 1993.

Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala got the goals as Lionel Messi pulled the strings, but in truth Italy were fortunate to only lose 3-0 against a hugely impressive Albiceleste.

It was only Italy's second match since their shock World Cup qualifying defeat to North Macedonia in March, with that loss preventing them from reaching Qatar 2022.

Despite the Azzurri winning Euro 2020 less than a year ago, Mancini is already looking to instigate something of a rebuild.

But he was keen to pay tribute to those who have played a key role over the past four years.

"In the first half we made two mistakes on their two goals, then they were better at keeping the ball," Mancini is quoted as saying by Sky Italia.

"They were better than us, but I must say thanks to these guys who have played in these four years.

"There is regret for the lack of qualification for the World Cup, and tonight's match was initially balanced, then they had superior quality to us.

"After this match we had in mind to change several things and we will do it. We need to find the players, put together a team that will suffer at the beginning and that in the future will be able to give us joy."

Clearly, the attack will be Mancini's primary focus in any rebuild as he rued a lack of threat going forward.

"We have great difficulty scoring at the moment, and we have to work a lot knowing that it will not be so simple and it will take time [to overcome their issues]," he continued.

"After the European Championship we struggled to score and we have to find solutions in this sense and try to be fast, but it will not be easy to put together a team that gives us short-term satisfaction even if there are good guys. We will have to make as few mistakes as possible.

"I have optimism. I like to work and train. It's true that we lost against a great Argentina team, but we must know that there will also be these moments and we must make sure that the youngest players learn quickly."

Italy now turn their attention to the Nations League. They face Germany on Saturday and again on June 14 – matches against Hungary and England are sandwiched in between.

Argentina's impressive 3-0 Finalissima win over Italy saw La Albiceleste set a national new record of 32 matches unbeaten.

Lionel Scaloni's men were sensational at Wembley, producing a dominant and rampant performance that could have seen them claim an even more one-sided victory.

Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala got the goals, while Lionel Messi pulled the strings as Argentina made something of a statement less than six months before the World Cup.

Argentina's last defeat was a 2-0 loss to bitter rivals Brazil in the semi-finals of the 2019 Copa America, but they got their revenge in the final last year, beating the Selecao 1-0 at the Maracana to clinch their first title in 28 years.

Their 32 games unbeaten is a new record for official games, though Argentina did go 33 matches without defeat under Alfio Basile – that run included two fixtures not recognised by FIFA as they were against the Rest of America and the Rest of World in 1991.

Argentina's streak is the longest currently intact in international football and leaves them just five adrift of the all-time record set by Italy themselves last year.

Argentina made an early statement of intent ahead of the World Cup with an impressively dominant 3-0 win over Italy to win the UEFA/CONMEBOL Finalissima at Wembley.

Although Italy failed to qualify for Qatar 2022, few would have expected the European champions to be so stunningly outclassed by the Copa America 2021 winners.

Much of the pre-game focus was on Giorgio Chiellini, but the last game of his distinguished international career ended at half-time with Argentina deservedly 2-0 up thanks to goals from Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria.

Italy somehow prevented the inspired Lionel Messi and Di Maria adding more gloss to the scoreline, but Paulo Dybala finally got their third with the last kick of the game.

A brilliant intervention by Cristian Romero had earlier denied Andrea Belotti a simple finish in the 20th minute, with the striker then seeing a looping header saved by Emiliano Martinez a few moments later.

But Argentina soon took charge.

Messi wonderfully turned away from Giovanni Di Lorenzo and held him off before passing across goal for Martinez to tap home.

The Inter forward then turned provider on the stroke of half-time, spinning Leonardo Bonucci and feeding Di Maria, who lifted an audacious chip over the helpless Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Roberto Mancini made three changes at the break but if anything Argentina only became more dominant – Donnarumma desperately scurried back to stop a Bonucci back-pass going in, before importantly denying the excellent Di Maria twice.

Giovani Lo Celso then missed an open goal – albeit from a slightly tight angle – after great work by Messi, who subsequently tested Donnarumma twice.

But Donnarumma was eventually beaten again at the end, substitute Dybala finding the bottom-right corner after a solo Messi run terrified the Italy defence.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni says Italy did not deserve to miss out on the World Cup, while he cannot see Paulo Dybala being distracted by speculation over his future.

Euro 2020 winners Italy and Copa America champions Argentina meet in the 'Finalissima' at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday.

But there is no chance of the pair meeting in Qatar next November after Italy failed to make a second straight World Cup following play-off defeat against North Macedonia in March.

That led to questions over Roberto Mancini's future and the Italian system for failing to produce young players, with the Azzurri reliant on experienced campaigners such as Giorgio Chiellini and Ciro Immobile.

Scaloni was quick to back his opposite number Mancini as he expressed his dismay at Italy faltering in World Cup qualification.

"Italy did not deserve not to go to the World Cup, they are still European champions, a great team," Scaloni told reporters on Tuesday.

"There are games in which the ball does not want to enter the goal, and that's how the games are lost. But Mancini has done a great job, restoring a clear identity to Italy after so many years.

"I don't think he will make a lot of changes now, rather it will gradually change as we did: it happens to all national teams sooner or later that they have to change. Now they can start over."

Meanwhile, Dybala is heading for the exit door at Juventus when his contract expires in June, with Inter reportedly the favourites to sign the Bianconeri talisman.

As speculation persists over the future of the Argentina forward, Scaloni insisted that will not impact Dybala's performances for his country.

"These are situations that we have all had," Scaloni said of Dybala. "The important thing is that the players choose with their heads and then play.

"They are professionals and know how to manage certain situations. He is an extraordinary player and boy. He didn't play as much with us as we wanted, but we hope he will be a good choice for us in the future."

New Italy captain Leonardo Bonucci hopes to start laying the foundations to rebuild the Azzurri when they face Argentina on Wednesday.

Italy won their first European Championship since 1968 by defeating England on penalties last July at Wembley.

Roberto Mancini's side return to Wembley to meet Argentina in the 'Finalissima' between the Euro 2020 winners and Copa America champions.

Italy have struggled since their last visit to England's national stadium; missing out on a second straight World Cup after falling to a stunning play-off defeat against North Macedonia.

Bonucci has replaced Giorgio Chiellini as skipper of both Juventus and Italy, with his defensive partner heading for the exit door in Turin and announcing he will retire from international football following the game against Argentina.

The 35-year-old Bonucci is relishing the challenge of facing Lionel Scaloni's side.

"They are among the best in the world, Argentina hasn't lost in 31 games and it's no coincidence," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"We need maximum commitment and respect. We must start again and lay the foundations to bring Italy back to the top."

Argentina captain Lionel Messi suggested Italy would have been favourites for the World Cup should they have appeared in Qatar, and Bonucci expressed his gratitude for those comments.

"The fault is ours, it took very little to be able to play in something truly unique for a player's career," he added.

"We thank Messi for the kind words he said about us; tomorrow two winning national teams will meet and we want to put on a show to take the trophy home."

Bonucci hailed Messi, who will aim to guide Argentina to their third World Cup win and first since 1986.

"For a player who has won so many Golden Balls it is difficult to find words to described him," the Juve defender continued. 

"He was, and still is today, with Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the best in the world – great respect will be needed."

As for Chiellini's international retirement, Bonucci hopes to give him a fitting send-off as he outlined his own plans for captaincy.

"We must enjoy this last day with him, he was a great companion on the pitch and in life," he said. "From the day after tomorrow I will continue to do what I have always done, to be an example.

"From Chiellini I learned the ability to work out difficult situations in a short time and find the solution.

"That is the secret that made Giorgio a great person and a great captain, I'll try to smooth out the flaws. My team-mates will have to help me too, just as we helped Chiellini and [Gianluigi] Buffon."

Italy coach Roberto Mancini reiterated his disappointment with the Italian system failing to produce young footballers, but only promised to give youngsters a chance after the clash with Argentina.

The Azzurri lifted Euro 2020 after a penalty shoot-out victory over England last July but failed to qualify for a second straight World Cup following play-off disappointment against North Macedonia in March.

That led to questions towards Mancini and Italian football over the lack of trust placed in younger players, with the more experienced campaigners such as Ciro Immobile and Giorgio Chiellini preferred.

Mancini subsequently suggested that Italy are suffering as Serie A coaches refuse to provide youthful members of their clubs the opportunities to develop.

Italy face Argentina at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday in a meeting between the European Championship winners and Copa America champions, though Mancini appears reluctant to trust his younger players yet.

"Tomorrow will be the match that will end a cycle," the Azzurri boss told reporters on Tuesday.

"It does not mean that 15-20 players will leave, but from Wednesday we will include young players to understand how much they are worth and if we can count on them for the future.

"In the meantime, I must continue to choose the players always with a logical criterion, then courage will be needed because it will be a younger group that will need to be supported in a different way.

"We will not change the whole team, but in the four games one, two, three or four young people will play.

"This will also be a great thing to do. We are trying to work for the future, to improve. If the clubs do or do not let the young players play, I cannot decide.

"We will try to have more knowledge of the young people and we want to do things well, but we certainly cannot pray to anyone if they don't want to do it.

"We managed to win a European championship anyway, despite many difficulties."

Despite not having the likes of Immobile, Federico Chiesa, Domenico Berardi and Marco Verratti to call upon, Mancini expects his side to compete well against Argentina.

Asked if his side will still be able to put on a show, Mancini responded: "I think so, even if we are missing several players. I would have liked to have all the boys here, they deserved it.

"We have a good match ahead of us. It is nice to play this match, Italy-Argentina is a classic of world football and it will also be a tribute to many players.

"It is a great pleasure to be here, not even 12 months ago we were here to celebrate [winning Euro 2020 at Wembley] and for this reason, there is also a bit of emotion."

Lionel Messi says there can be "no doubts" Karim Benzema would be a worthy Ballon d'Or winner after the Real Madrid star cemented his frontrunner status with Champions League glory.

The France international is the favourite to succeed the Argentinian as the next recipient of the game's most prestigious individual prize after inspiring his side to domestic and European success this term.

Benzema netted 44 goals in 46 games across all competitions this term for Carlo Ancelotti's side and led them in Paris to victory over Liverpool on Saturday as captain.

Messi, who has added to his trophy cabinet with a Ligue 1 title at Paris Saint-Germain in his first year away from Barcelona, certainly feels Benzema has earned his shot at the award.

"I think there is no doubts," Messi told TyC Sports when asked if the Frenchman would be a fitting successor as the Ballon d'Or winner.

"It is very clear that Benzema had a spectacular year and ended up consecrating himself with the Champions League, being fundamental from the round of 16 onwards in all the games.

"I think there are no doubts this year."

Messi also reflected on his triumph in 2021, when he defended the crown he won in 2019 against Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski after the award was cancelled for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lewandowski would have been many people's favourite in 2020 and went on break Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 Bundesliga goals in a single season the following year.

Yet he was forced to make do with second behind Messi after he helped Argentina to their first Copa America success in 28 years.

Messi acknowledged Lewandowski would have been a worthy winner in 2020, but on reflection feels he deserved the 2021 triumph he was awarded.

"What I said at that moment was from my heart and because I really felt that way," Messi said, alluding to his comments at the 2021 Ballon d'Or ceremony.

"I said that he deserved the Ballon d'Or before, because the year before it had seemed to me that he had been the best.

"But the year that I won, he wasn't the best. I just said that. But let him take it as he wants. Everyone says what they want and obviously he can express himself and say what he wants.

"Honestly, I don't share what he said, but I didn't give it much importance either. That's it, he can say what he wants, I'm not interested."

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