A TikTok video link (an archived link) was shared with us via WhatsApp claiming that Cristiano Ronaldo, a Portuguese professional footballer, came out and said that Lionel Messi, an Argentine professional footballer, has been paying off referees to win.
“In my opinion, I am better than Messi, and it’s not an opinion; it’s a fact. But not only that, if it weren’t for Messi to pay the Referees, he wouldn’t have won a single Ballon d’Or. So same with the World Cup he won; almost all the matches he played were rigged. So that’s why I hate him. I should have won the World Cup; I clearly deserved it,” the claim states.
This video made its way into circulation following the controversial trend of Messi’s win at the 2023 Ballon d’Or. This video, which was uploaded on October 16, 2023, got a number of engagements: over 870,000 views, 15000 likes, 2786 comments, 1687 shares, and 2786 bookmarks as of the writing of this fact check.
Using Tineye, an image verification tool, we got 10 results linking us to different news platforms. The oldest result date was January 13, 2022, and we established that all these links were leading us to an interview Cristiano Ronaldo had with Sky Sports.
Comparing the two videos, the one in question and the interview on Sky Sports’ YouTube channel, we established that these are the same videos. However, there are inconsistencies in the TikTok video, starting from the context, the lip movements, and the visual resolution around them, which weren’t clear compared to the video from Sky Sports. This clearly indicates that the TikTok video was manipulated.
After watching and listening intently to the 21-minute-long interview on Sky Sports, we didn’t encounter any responses from Ronaldo about Messi. Christiano’s interview was primarily focused on his take and personal analysis of Manchester United’s performance, an English team he was still playing for at the time.
One of the statements in this video that raised our eyebrows is, “So same with the World Cup he won; almost all the matches he played were rigged.”
Going by the date of October 16th, 2023, when the TikTok video was published, the highlighted statement above suggests that Christiano’s interview took place after the World Cup, yet the World Cup actually began a month later, that is, in November 2022, as per the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) website. This confirms that the video was washed in terms of facts and was manipulated to fit the TikTok users’ agenda.
The video is not real; it is a deepfake created by manipulating features of the original interview and adding a fake voice generated with an AI tool to look appealing. Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t say that Messi rigged his wins and that he hates him.