Lionel Messi sentenced to 21 months in prison for tax fraud

Lionel Messi won The Best FIFA Men's Player of the Year award earlier this week. The ceremony saw the FC Barcelona talisman win the title for an unprecedented sixth time. However, theories of FIFA's voting procedure getting rigged has become a matter of debate. A national team coach and another national team captain are claiming to have never voted for Messi. However, the voting details show their name to have cast their respective votes in favour of the Argentine.

According to official data released by FIFA, Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk received the most journalist votes while the Barca superstar gathered the most number of votes from the national team captains and coaches. However, now that two voters have come out to claim that their votes were counted incorrectly, doubts regarding FIFA's efficiency and credibility are coming to light.

According to Soccer Laduma, Nicaragua captain Juan Barrera claimed that he didn't vote for the Argentine megastar. He further said that last year, he had indeed voted for Messi. However, this time he did not, contrary to the data released by FIFA. According to the FIFA breakdown, the Nicaragua captain's first vote was for Messi, followed by Sadio Mane and Cristiano Ronaldo, in second and third place respectively.

Lionel Messi
Argentina and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi (L) is presented with the men's player of year award by FIFA President Gianni Infantino. AFP / Marco Bertorello

Along with Barrera, Sudan national football team coach Zdravko Lugarusic also claimed that his votes were not counted correctly. As FIFA shows, Lugarusic voted for Messi, van Dijk and Mane as his first, second and third choice. However, concerns have escalated since the Sudan coach shared his actual voting screenshot, which shows that he voted for Mohamed Salah, Mane and Kylian Mbappe.

Even the Egyptian Football Association demanded an explanation from FIFA, asking why their vote for Liverpool star Salah wasn't counted. Daily Mail reports that after finding out that his home nation didn't vote for him, Salah tweeted his disgust. However, the Egyptian FA insisted that they voted for their country's most celebrated footballer.

Some people were surprised after the Argentine won The Best FIFA Men's Player of the Year award this September, given the fact that Netherlands and Liverpool FC defender Virgil van Dijk secured his first UEFA Player of the Year title earlier in August. According to football pundits, van Dijk deserved the FIFA accolade too. However, Messi secured more votes than the Liverpool star and his arch-nemesis, Cristiano Ronaldo.

A similar scandal took place in 2015, when several national team coaches and captains claimed that their votes were incorrectly counted.