- Messi admitted Lewandowski deserved the Ballon d’Or last year
- The award ceremony was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Lewandowski was awarded the Striker of the Year award for his performances in 2021
Lionel Messi was the first to admit that Robert Lewandowski deserved a Ballon d’or during the award ceremony on Monday, November 29.
The Argentine was crowned the winner of the Ballon d’or , winning the coveted award for a record seventh time.
Messi was always favourite to win the award going into the ceremony, although there was stiff competition from Lewandowski, who had a stellar year 2020 and 2021.
Upon receiving his award, Messi showed some class by giving a shout out to his closest rival Lewandowski, saying the Pole should have won the award last year.
There was no Ballon d’Or awards in 2020 as France Football cancelled the ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I’d like to mention Robert, it’s been a real honour to compete with him," Messi said on stage.
"I think France Football should award you your 2020 Ballon d’Or, you deserved it."
In the wake of the cancellation of the Ballon d’Or awards in 2020, Lewandowski made his feelings known on missing out on what was arguably his best chance at being crowned the best player on the planet.
He scored 53 goals in all competitions in 2021 for Bayern Munich and did not walk empty-handed on Monday as he was recognized with the Striker of the Year prize, an award that was announced only hours before the Ballon d’or ceremony.
“Incredible to be here”
Speaking on his feat, Messi admitted that he thought his 2019 accolade would he his last.
"Two years ago I thought it was the last time. People were starting to ask me when I was going to retire but now I'm here in Paris and very happy,” the 34-year old said.
"It's a special year for me with this Copa America title. It meant a lot to win [1-0 against Brazil in the final] at the Maracana stadium and I was so happy to celebrate with the people from Argentina.
"I don't know if it's the best year of my life - I've had a long career - but it was a special one with the title with Argentina after the tough times and the criticism."
Other winners of the night
Another Paris Saint Germain player, Gianluigi Donnarumma, was also feted as he won the the Yashin Trophy for best goalkeeper, while Barcelona youngster Pedri won the Kopa Trophy for the best player aged under 21.
Thanks to their Champions League triumph in May, Chelsea were named the Club of the year.