Messi led his country to their first World Cup triumph since 1986 with one Win on penalties against France in the final. The Inter Miami forward scored twice in the final before converting his penalty in a shoot-out that Argentina won 4-2.
On the way to the final, the South American nation fought his way past the Netherlands, In the quarter-finals, he triumphed again on penalties, after a dramatic and heated battle that saw 16 yellow cards issued over the course of the game.
Van Gaal was the man of the Dutch dugout but the 72-year-old believes the tournament was destined to ensure Messi and Argentina would triumph in what is likely to be the legendary striker’s last World Cup.
Presenting the Eredivisie awards to Dutch broadcaster NOS, Van Gaal said: “I don’t really want to say much about it.
“When you see how Argentina score goals and how we score goals and how some Argentine players went over the mark and weren’t penalized, I think it was all a deliberate game.
“I mean everything I say,” he continued. “That Messi should be world champion? I guess so.”
After coming out of retirement to manage the side for the third time following the sacking of Frank de Boer, Van Gaal led his side out of the group before meeting Argentina after a 3-1 round of 16 match against the United States.
Nahuel Molina’s first-half strike and Messi’s penalty in the 73rd minute put Argentina on course for a routine win before substitute Wout Weghorst’s dramatic last-minute brace sent the game into overtime and, in 11 minutes of added time, the equalized.
Tensions continued to heat up in extra time as right-back Denzel Dumfries finally saw a red card ahead of the penalty shoot-out. Virgin van Dijk and Steven Burghuis eventually missed the first two Dutch penalties, giving Argentina a 4-3 lead as winners.
Van Gaal left his post after the defeat. He continues to recover from his prostate cancer diagnosed in 2022.
Fifa has not commented on Van Gaal’s claims.