Kim Min-jae’s former teammate Hvitsa Kvarachelia (SSC Napoli) was excited to shake hands with Lionel Messi (Inter Miami).
“Hvitsa revealed an anecdote about meeting Lionel Messi at the Ballon d’Or ceremony,” Italian outlet Football Italia reported on Monday (Aug. 18).
The Georgian winger was a sensation at Napoli last season, alongside his teammate Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich). Signed for just €15 million last summer, Hvitsa, like Kim, who arrived at the same time, immediately became an integral part of Napoli’s core.
Despite last season being his debut season at Napoli, Hvitsa put in a tremendous performance, scoring 14 goals and providing 17 assists in 43 appearances across all competitions. In the league, he scored 12 goals and provided 13 assists in 34 games, making him one of Serie A’s best “crackers” (players with the ability to turn the tide of a game).
Hvitsa’s performance helped Napoli win their first Serie A title in 33 years, crowning him league champion. Hvitsa also had a breakout year, leading Serie A in assists and being named Serie A MVP.
Along with Serie A Defender of the Year Kim Min-jae and Victor Osimhen, who led the league in scoring with 26 goals, Hvica was one of three key players in Napoli’s title run, and their performances for Napoli earned all three of them a spot on the 2023 Ballon d’Or shortlist. In the final voting, Kim was ranked 22nd and Hvitsa 17th. Osimhen finished eighth, the highest of the three.
As a Ballon d’Or finalist, Hvitsa attended the 2023 Ballon d’Or ceremony at the Théâtre du Chatelet in Paris, France, on March 31. Other Munich players, including Kim Min-jae, were not in attendance as the team was playing a match that day.
Hvitsa, who attended the ceremony for the first time since his professional debut, watched as the “God of Football” Messi won his eighth Ballon d’Or, and was thrilled to shake hands with the man he considers the greatest player in soccer history.
“Meeting Messi was history for me,” Hvitsa recalls. You probably won’t believe me when I tell you this,” he said. “For me, Messi has completely changed since then. Of course, I knew him as a player, but it’s very difficult to find a player like Messi in the history of soccer.”
“He was sitting to my right at the time, and all of a sudden he stood up,” he explains, “and I didn’t know why he stood up or where he was going, because we were told to stay seated during commercial breaks if possible.”
“She walked straight towards me. I didn’t understand what was happening, but he raised his hand and asked me to shake it.” “I was so confused, but I got up and shook his hand,” he recalls of the unforgettable moment.
“After shaking his hand, he went back to his seat. He doesn’t know how much I admired him for getting up and shaking hands with a player like me.” “He’s an amazing person, and I have a lot of respect and gratitude for him,” he said.