Fact Check: Leonel Messi Did NOT Direct Profanity Or Criticism At Ukraine's Zelenskyy In Instagram Post

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Leonel Messi Did NOT Direct Profanity Or Criticism At Ukraine's Zelenskyy In Instagram Post Altered Photo

Did Leonel Messi, an Argentinian football star who led his national team to the 2022 World Cup, swear at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Instagram, demanding that the Ukrainian leader "take [his] people and get out of Europe" and displaying a sign with profanity directed at Zelenskyy? No, that's not true. The image was digitally altered, and Messi did not post the words attributed to him.

The claim appeared in a tweet (archived here) posted on November 20, 2022. The sign Messi appeared to hold in the shared picture said, as translated from Russian (with the original punctuation),

Zelenski go fuck yourself

The caption, in English, continued:

Yesterday, at the opening of the World Cup in Qatar, Messi expressed his thoughts about refugees from Ukraine and directly about Zelensky's actions: "I'm tired of looking at this senseless war! Zelensky, take your people and get out of Europe, we know the truth!"

Although Leonel Messi was born and raised in Argentina and played for this country at the World Cup in Qatar, the entry ended with words in Russian that said:

Italian football!

This is what the tweet looked like at the time of the writing of this fact check:

Screen Shot 2022-12-21 at 9.23.47 AM.png

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Wed Dec 21 14:23:47 2022 UTC)

But the star football player, whose Instagram posts drew worldwide attention in light of Argentina's World Cup victory in December 2022, did not post anything similar either in November or December 2022. Here is what the content of his verified Instagram account looked like as of this writing:

Screen Shot 2022-12-21 at 10.01.57 AM.png

(Sources: Instagram screenshot taken on Wed Dec 21 14:38:09 2022 UTC; Instagram screenshot taken on Wed Dec 21 14:38:31 2022 UTC; Instagram screenshot taken on Wed Dec 21 14:39:12 2022 UTC; Instagram screenshot taken on Wed Dec 21 14:39:36 2022 UTC; composite image by Lead Stories)

A further inquiry shows that the photo with a poster was posted on Instagram in May 2014. However, the inscription did not mention Ukraine or Zelenskyy. As translated by Google, the Spanish-language poster read:

That was an expression of support for a 9-year-old boy named Luca, a Messi fan, who was suffering from cancer, MythDetector previously reported.

Here is what the original, unaltered post looked like:

Screen Shot 2022-12-21 at 10.04.12 AM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Wed Dec 21 15:04:12 2022 UTC)

Other Lead Stories fact checks about the war in Ukraine can be found here.

Want to inform others about the accuracy of this story?

See who is sharing it (it might even be your friends...) and leave the link in the comments.:

  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

About Us

International Fact-Checking Organization Meta Third-Party Fact Checker

Lead Stories is a fact checking website that is always looking for the latest false, misleading, deceptive or inaccurate stories, videos or images going viral on the internet.
Spotted something? Let us know!.

Lead Stories is a:


Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Lead Stories LLC:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Most Read

Most Recent

Share your opinion