ICONIC pictures of Lionel Messi lifting the World Cup feature a FAKE trophy, it has emerged.
The Argentine completed his incredible body of work last month when he won the World Cup in Qatar.
As captain of his country, Messi lifted the famous golden trophy aloft following his side’s thrilling win.
But just minutes later the real cup was removed from the pitch by Fifa officials, as is customary, unbeknownst to some of the players at the time.
A fake trophy made its way down to the pitch from fans in the crowd, with players including Messi posing with it for photos thinking it was the real thing.
The 35-year-old posted a series of snaps of himself with the trophy to Instagram, even though it was a fake.
And the post went on to become the most liked in the website’s history, overtaking the egg and gathering nearly 75million likes.
In another snap, Angel Di Maria can be seen noticing that the trophy is a fake by looking at the bottom of it.
According to El Pais, Argentina fans Manuel and Paula had the cup made before the tournament, with the sole purpose of trying to get players to sign it.
Explaining what happened, they said: “The idea was that the players could sign it, but in the end the Cup entered the field of play three times.
“The first one was taken by a relative of (Leandro) Paredes, and he signed it.
“The second time they asked us for it and it was 45 minutes, it went from one player to another, from one family member to another, and they took photos.
“In the stands they told me ‘you lost the Cup’. We had fun but we wanted him back.
“There I yelled at a couple of players ‘if you see the Cup that Paredes has, it’s ours’, and in the end Lautaro Martínez brought it, who also signed it.
“Fifa personnel came there and asked us to confirm that it was not the original.”
Among those to hold the trophy thinking it was real was Messi’s wife Antonela.
When Di Maria eventually pointed out to Messi that it was fake, the duo laughed together – showing no signs of irritation.
Photographer Fernando de la Orden captured many of the snaps – and even went to visit Manuel and Paula once back in Argentina – where the fake trophy resides today.
During the encounter, Manuel and Paula revealed: “Before the World Cup we contacted people who are dedicated to making cups and it took them six months to make it.
“It has the weight of the original, it is made with resin and quartz inside and bathed with a gold-like paint.
“There are some details, marks and reliefs that are not similar, but the difference is minimal.”
Messi, 35, spent more than a fortnight celebrating his win back in Argentina – hosting parties attended by some of his team-mates.
He has now returned to PSG, however, touching down in France yesterday.
The superstar is unlikely to feature in their Coupe de France clash with third-tier Chateauroux on Friday night, but could return against Ligue 1’s bottom side Angers next Wednesday.