Lionel Messi has played down his "natural" row with Wout Weghorst after the two players clashed at the World Cup in Qatar.
Messi called Weghorst a "fool" during an interview after Argentina's tense shootout win against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals. The Argentina captain broke away from the live post-match chat to shout, "What are you looking at fool? Get back there."
The comments were directed at Weghorst, who was off-camera. Weghorst, who secured a move to Manchester United on the back of his World Cup form, admitted he was "very disappointed" by the incident and claimed "rude" Messi refused to shake his hand.
The incident dominated the headlines and Messi has now offered his side of the story. "Everything that came out was natural, a lot had happened on the field with that player in reality and a couple more," the Paris Saint-Germain star told Infobae.
"At the moment of tension, friction, crossing, when the game gets like that, the fever with the referee too. He was in the mixed zone and the game had just finished. And well, I know that there is everything now."
Argentina's win against the Netherlands was one of the most enthralling games of last year's World Cup. The eventual winners took the lead through Nahuel Molina - with Messi providing the assist - before Messi scored a penalty in the 73rd minute.
What did you make of the incident involving Lionel Messi and Wout Weghorst? Let us know in the comments below!
At that point, the contest seemed over. Yet a late brace from Weghorst - including a 101st-minute strike - forced the game into extra-time. Argentina won the shootout after Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and Ajax striker Steven Berghuis missed from the spot.
The game is remembered for Antonio Mateu Lahoz's controversial refereeing display. The Spanish official faced criticism after sending off Netherlands international Denzel Dumfries and booking 14 other players. He also showed a yellow card to one of the coaches.
The two sets of players continued to clash after the full-time whistle. That was when Messi, who also rowed with Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal and his assistant Edgar Davids, delivered his memorable post-match interview.
Weghorst offered his version of events in the days following the game. He told Gol: "I went to shake his hand after the game. He has not accepted it and has said something rude to me, but I do not understand Spanish very well. I'm very disappointed."
Argentina went on to beat Croatia 3-0 in the last four before recording another shootout win against France in the final. Weghorst, meanwhile, completed a sensational loan move from Championship leaders Burnley to Erik ten Hag's United in the January window.
Former Argentina international Sergio Aguero, who retired in 2021, was in the mixed zone when the incident unfollowed. He has previously described it as a "hot moment" that ended after words were exchanged between the two current internationals.