Sergio Aguero has publicly backed Lionel Messi's bid to regain the Ballon d'Or and denied he overlooked his close friend's claim to win the coveted award.
Eyebrows were raised when Manchester City striker Aguero, addressing a question in front of gathered media, indicated the next Ballon d'Or winner has "to be in the Champions League [final]".
Messi, a five-time recipient, agonisingly fell one step short of Europe's showpiece stage as Barcelona gave up a three-goal advantage in losing 4-3 on aggregate to Liverpool in the semi-finals.
The 31-year-old controversially finished fifth in the voting for the Ballon d'Or last year and Aguero took to social media to further explain whether he thinks his Argentina team-mate deserves the honour in 2019.
"I don't enjoy having to clarify my statements – but when I'm quoted for things I haven't said, it must be done," Aguero said in a Twitter post.
"I'll spell it out then. No one other than Messi will be my pick for the Ballon d'Or as long as he keeps on playing – particularly if he plays like he did this season.
"The question put forward to me was whether I should win the award myself this year.
"My reply was that I should have reached the [Champions League] final if I wished to deserve it. Couldn't be clearer, and there shouldn't have been room for misinterpretation."
Messi and Aguero have both celebrated domestic success this season, with Barcelona retaining their LaLiga crown and City finishing a point above Liverpool in the Premier League.