Messi guided his nation to their first World Cup triumph since 1986 with a penalty shootout victory against France in the final. The Inter Miami forward scored twice in the final before converting his penalty in the shootout which Argentina won 4-2.
En route to the final, the South American nation battled past the Netherlands, triumphing again on penalties in the quarter-finals after a dramatic and feisty contest that saw 16 yellow cards issued throughout the game.
Van Gaal was the man in the Dutch dugout for the defeat but the 72-year-old believes that the tournament was predetermined to ensure that Messi and the Argentinian national team would triumph in what will likely be the legendary forward’s last World Cup.
Speaking at the Eredivisie awards to Dutch outlet NOS, Van Gaal said: “I don’t really want to say much about it.
“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 all premeditated game.
“I mean everything I say,” he continued. “That Messi should become world champion? I think so, yes.”
Having come out of retirement to take charge of the side for a third time – following the sacking of Frank de Boer – Van Gaal led his side out of the group before setting up a clash with Argentina following a 3-1 round-of-16 fixture against the United States.
Nahuel Molina’s first-half strike and Messi’s 73rd-minute penalty had Argentina en course for a routine victory before substitute Wout Weghorst’s dramatic last-gasp brace sent the game to extra-time with an equaliser in the 11th minute of injury time.
In extra-time, tempers continued to flare with right-back Denzel Dumfries eventually shown red before the penalty shootout. Virgin van Dijk and Steven Burghuis ultimately missed the first two Dutch penalties as Argentina advanced 4-3 victors.
Van Gaal left his post following the defeat. He continues his recovery from prostate cancer with which he was diagnosed in 2022.
Fifa has not commented on Van Gaal’s claims.