Former Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal has sensationally claimed that Lionel Messi’s World Cup victory was rigged.
After a number of disappointments on the international stage, Messi led Argentina to a first World Cup since 1986 over in Qatar after they beat France on penalties following a breathtaking 3-3 draw.
Golden Ball winner Messi hit a brace and Kylian Mbappe bagged a hat-trick, before Gonzalo Montiel converted the winning spot-kick at the Lusail Stadium.
It was almost Messi’s destiny to finally win the big one and complete football in his fifth World Cup tournament. But Van Gaal, whose Netherlands side were beaten on penalties by the eventual winners in the quarter-finals, has gone a step further.
The ex Manchester United and Bayern Munich boss saw his side lose in a fiery game where a staggering total of 18 yellow cards and one red were brandished by Mateu Lahoz.
And he believes the game was a “premeditated” one – hinting as though it was almost set up for Messi to become a world champion.
“I don’t really want to say much about it,” he told Dutch outlet NOS at the Eredivisie Awards on Tuesday.
“When you see how Argentina gets the goals and how we get the goals, and how some Argentina players overstepped the mark and were not punished, then I think it was a premeditated game.”
“I mean everything I say,” Van Gaal clarified when journalists asked what he was alluding to.
“That Messi should become world champion? I think so, yes.”
Messi displayed an ear-cupping celebration in front of Van Gaal that was 20 years in the making and the 72-year-old stepped down from his position, allowing Ronald Koeman to return to the hotseat.
In response, Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk has distanced himself and the rest of the squad from Van Gaal’s comments in a new interview.
He told NOS: “Van Gaal’s words about Messi? He can say what he wants, it’s his opinion, but I do not agree with him and I don’t share the same opinion.”