LIONEL MESSI was left "speechless" after Rafael Nadal admitted he wants him to win the Laureus Award, despite having been nominated himself.
The icons are both among a star-studded shortlist of nominees for the prestigious gong, handed out each year to the world's best sportsman.
Nadal, 36, could win the prize for the third time – having also picked it up in 2011 and 2021.
But the humble Spaniard, while honoured to be nominated, says he wants Messi to win it instead.
He wrote on Instagram: "An honour to be nominated again to the Laureus Sportsman of the year… but… this year… let's go Messi, you deserve it."
In response to tennis favourite Nadal, Messi gushed: "That an athlete as great as you says that about me leaves me speechless…
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"Thank you very much, Rafa Nadal, you also deserve everything for the way you compete every time you go out on the court.
"You're a winner, maybe we have a lot of competition there, huh? You also deserve the Laureus award this year, really."
Messi, 35, inspired Argentina to World Cup glory in 2022, winning the tournament's Golden Ball award and scoring twice in the final.
He also helped Paris Saint-Germain reclaim the Ligue 1 title from Lille.
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Nadal, meanwhile, endured an injury-plagued year – but was imperious when he was able to play unencumbered by physical ailments.
He scooped a stunning Australian Open title in January 2022, somehow defeating Daniil Medvedev from two sets down.
He then won his 14th French Open – and record 22nd Grand Slam overall – comfortably beating protege Casper Ruud in the final.
In the Sportsman of the Year category, Nadal and Messi are up against Kylian Mbappe, Steph Curry, Max Verstappen and Mondo Duplantis.
While footballer Alexia Putellas and tennis world No 1 Iga Swiatek have been included on the Sportswoman of the Year shortlist.
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