Lionel Messi has lashed out at Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal, saying the veteran manager showed "disrespect" to Argentina in the lead-up to their World Cup quarter-final clash.
The Albiceleste skipper celebrated his side's penalty shoot-out win over the Netherlands with a defiant gesture towards Van Gaal. The image, captured by cameras and quickly shared on social media.
The gesture known in Argentina as "Topo Gigio" consists of holding both hands to the ears with open palms to simulate big ears like those of the children's character, a mouse, after which it is named. It is a defiant and vindictive action that in the imagination of many Argentine fans is linked to the former footballer Juan Román Riquelme, who clashed with Van Gaal when he played for Barcelona.
When asked who his gesture was aimed at, Messi admitted that he dedicated it to Van Gaal because of statements made by the Dutch coach in the run-up to the game.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker began by saying, "It's a moment in time, in the match," before admitting to whom he had dedicated it.
"I was angry about the pre-match [comments] because a coach like Van Gaal, with the experience he has, with the games and the battle he's had throughout his career, who speaks the way he did, who disrespects the way he did.... I think it didn't have to be like that. It doesn't make sense and I felt he disrespected the Argentina team," said the PSG star.
Van Gaal had said in the days leading up to the quarter-final between Argentina and the Netherlands that he wanted his team to take revenge for the semi-final loss at the Brazil 2014 World Cup, in which he felt Messi had "not touched the ball."
The Dutch implied it would be easy to shut down Messi and that his side would triumph if the contest went to penalties. Argentina, however, had the last laugh.