LEVERKUSEN, Germany – Bayer Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voeller was dismayed that his players squabbled over the souvenir when Lionel Messi gave the shirt off his back — at halftime.
Messi scored one goal, set up another and hit a post in Barcelona's 3-1 Champions League win at Leverkusen on Tuesday night, when two of the home team's players were a little too keen to collect a jersey from the three-time FIFA player of the year.
The eagerness of defenders Michal Kadlec and Manuel Friedrich to acquire Messi's shirt was "definitely a bit too much," Voeller said in Thursday's edition of German daily Bild.
Bild reported Kadlec exchanged jerseys with the Argentine star at halftime, only for Friedrich to take it from him after a squabble outside the locker rooms.
"Manuel stole the jersey from me during halftime," Kadlec told the newspaper.
Both defenders had been badly caught out of position when Messi fed Alexis Sanchez for Barcelona's first goal shortly before halftime.
Voeller was furious the two players allowed themselves be star-struck when "90 percent of the team was fully concentrated on the game."
Kadlec, who scored Leverkusen's goal, managed to exchange jerseys a second time after the final whistle — after Sanchez got his second goal and Messi completed the scoring.
Voeller promised to speak to the two players.
"I guarantee that Kadlec and Friedrich will auction their Messi jerseys for a good cause," he said.
Kadlec acknowledged later Thursday that "in hindsight, it doesn't leave the best impression to exchange jerseys at halftime already."
The Czech left back denied he and Friedrich fought over Messi's shirt, adding that he was "joking" when he said his teammate stole it.
Leverkusen plays the second leg of the second-round series at Barcelona on March 7.