Erling Haaland was subbed off after bagging five goals in the Champions League in order to protect Lionel Messi's record – or at least that’s what football conspiracy theorists on social media would have you believe.
The Manchester City forward took his goal tally to 39 for the season against RB Leipzig as Pep Guardiola's men thumped the German side 7-0 on Tuesday night (March 14).
However, he was still substituted by his manager after putting on one of the displays of the season, and he didn’t look 100 per cent happy with the decision at the time.
Now, some fans online are speculating wildly about the decision to sub Haaland off, and they think it’s got something to do with a record held by Messi.
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As a result of coming off, Haaland was unable to break the Champions League record for most goals in a single game.
Haaland came close to breaking the record on TuesdayGetty Images
No player has ever scored six in one appearance, and Haaland looked on track to do so before coming off in place of Julian Alvarez.
The only other players who has managed to score five in one game? Shakhtar’s Luiz Adriano and Lionel Messi.
Messi put on an incredible display against Bayer Leverkusen at the Nou Camp back when Guardiola was in charge of Barcelona in 2012.
Football fans like to look for weird trends and occurrences in pretty much every game, and some seemed convinced of the theory on Tuesday.
One wrote: "Pep subbed Haaland to protect Messi's record.”
Another wrote: “Pep is Lionel Messi's biggest fan. The Haaland substitution confirms it.”
Haaland told BT Sport after the game that he told Guardiola he wanted six goals when he was substituted.
“I told Pep when I went off that I would love to score a double hat-trick," Haaland said. "But what I can do!”
Guardiola spoke about the record after the game, saying: “If he achieves this milestone at 22, 23, it will be boring his life. He wouldn’t have a target to reach in the future. Here and everywhere. That’s why I make a substitution.
“I didn’t know about Messi with Leverkusen, but I make a substitution because normally when the game is over we want them to play. He scored five goals.
“The problem is every time we don’t score two or three he will be criticised. This is the reality.”
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