Manchester City star Sergio Aguero has revealed Lionel Messi as his personal pick for the Ballon d'Or 'as long as he keeps playing', as he rejected a previous quote that appeared to suggest that this year's winner should come from either Liverpool or Tottenham.
The 30-year-old striker, who picked up his second consecutive Premier League title last weekend, was reported to have backed a Champions League finalist for football's top individual prize in 2019, with several outlets reporting Aguero's supposed words as either an endorsement of a Liverpool or Spurs player or a snub to Lionel Messi.
The City striker was quoted in various places as saying: "I think that to win the Ballon d'Or [you] have to be in the Champions League [final] no matter what."
However, Aguero has since distanced himself from that apparently falsified quote, instead taking to Twitter to back his compatriot Messi.
“I do not like having to go out and clarify but when words are attributed to me that I never said, I have to do it,” Aguero wrote.
“To be clear, and I always answered the same, while Messi continues to play, and especially how he has played this season, he deserves to win the Ballon d’Or.”
While both Messi and Ronaldo missed out last year, a Champions League winner has taken home the award for each of the last five years. Ronaldo (x3), Messi and most recently Luka Modric all received the honour off the back of their side being victorious in Europe's premier club competition.
If playing in the final of the club game's biggest competition does have a major impact on the Ballon d'Or (which is voted for by international journalists) this year, the most likely candidate for the 2019 award could be one of Liverpool trio Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
Aguero's side were eliminated from the competition by Spurs at the quarter-final stage and, despite winning the Premier League four times in the last eight seasons, the Citizens have never been beyond the semi-final stage of the Champions League.