Some 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of Buenos Aires on the west bank of the mighty Paraná River, the agricultural central city is where Messi grew up and first kicked a ball. His image is everywhere, adorning the facades of buildings.
In the nearby town of Serodino, a huge 12 by 18 meter (40 by 60 foot) Messi No.10 jersey floats in the air above the streets, set up in tribute to Argentina, who will face France in the of a flagship final on Sunday in Qatar.
“It gives me goosebumps,” said Juan Pío Drovetta, mayor of Serodino, adding that “La Scaloneta” – as the team is called in a nod to coach Lionel Scaloni – was fighting hard for the victoire.
“Behind that is work, there is heart, there are fists, there is blood,” he said.
Sunday’s game will be the second World Cup final for Messi, 35, who will be looking for revenge after losing 1-0 to Germany in the 2014 final in Brazil.
“We are going to win, that’s how it is. Because of the motivation of these guys, because of the way they treat each other,” said Juan Ibáñez Moroni, father of 8-year-old Pedro Ibáñez, who plays in the youth. Newell’s Old Boys team, Messi’s former club.
“Besides doing it for Argentina, they are going to do it for him (Messi) too. He needs it and will end up setting all the records,” he predicted.
In Rosario there is almost a Messi madness. “From another galaxy and from my neighborhood,” reads a huge mural painted near the house where Messi was born.
“He was a super fun, callous kid, his life was more than anything he spent with a soccer ball, playing with all the boys,” Alejandra Ferreyra said, showing photos of her mom and daughter. daughter with a teenage Messi.
“The truth is he deserves the best in life because he’s a beautiful little person, he’s a born leader and he’s going to make us all happy. We’re already champions.”