FOOTBALL fans on social media have conjured up a sensational theory that Lionel Messi has Brighton striker Neal Maupay to thank for winning a record SEVENTH Ballon d’Or.
One mystic fan wrote on Twitter: “Hard to believe the road to Messi winning an unprecedented 7th Ballon D’or began with Neal Maupay hacking down Bernd Leno.”
Maupay’s challenge saw Leno stretchered off and out injured as a consequence.
That meant back-up Emiliano Martinez was called into the starting line-up.
From there he helped Arsenal win the FA Cup that season, earning a move to Aston Villa to be No1 choice between the sticks.
Continuing to impress in the West Midlands Martinez was then called up to Argentina for the first time.
And it was for his country that he made two saves in the penalty shootout victory against Colombia during the Copa America semi-final.
And many believe it’s Messi’s international trophy with Argentina that pipped him to Ballon d’Or glory ahead of Polish striker Robert Lewandowski.
Another fan spelt out the series of events, saying: “No Maupay foul on Leno, No Martinez balling for Arsenal, Martinez doesn’t make Argentina XI, Isn’t there to stop them going out on pens to Colombia, Messi doesn’t win an int trophy, Lewa wins Ballon Dor.”
Meanwhile one joked: “Neil Maupay, he’s done it again.”
Messi beat Lewandowski to the award by just 33 points, with the pair perhaps separated by Messi’s success with his country.
And it was that international glory that was, as some believe, triggered by a Maupay challenge nearly a year-and-a-half ago.
Messi took the Ballon d’Or trophy at the glitzy Paris ceremony with a total voting score of 613, marginally ahead of Lewandowski (180).
Jorginho came a close third, securing 460 voting points after helping guide Chelsea to the Champions League title and Italy to the Euro 2020 crown.
Karim Benzema finished fourth on 239 points, ahead of N’Golo Kante (186) in fifth.
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