LIONEL MESSI’S glitzy wedding ceremony with childhood sweetheart Antonela Roccuzzo will take place down the road from a neighbourhood run by Argentina’s notorious Los Monos drug gang.
The £360,000-a-week Barcelona superstar and his stunning partner are making a romantic return to their hometown Rosario, Santa Fe, on June 30 to get married.
Although much of their time together has been spent in Barcelona, there has been room for sentiment with the couple and their two children – Thiago and Mateo – returning to their hometown for the grand event, due to take place on June 30.
Clearly a long time coming, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has spared no expense to make sure the occasion is as grand and spectacular as it should be, hiring out the impressive City Center Rosario complex.
Guests of the wedding will have the chance to play in the on-site casino while most will also stay in the five-star, 188-room Pullman Hotel inside the complex where rates start from almost £100 a night. There is also a fully functioning bowling alley, grass tennis courts, an indoor and outdoor swimming pool as well as a number of bars and restaurants.
The guest list will make for a who’s who of world footballing stars with Messi inviting the entire Barcelona senior squad. Luis Suarez and Neymar will be among those arriving in Santa Fe this week while Xavi Hernandez is believed to be the only former team-mate set to attend.
Spanish media also claim that the backroom staff are on the list although there was no room for the former head coach Luis Enrique, who left this summer, or any of the Barcelona board members.
Andres Iniesta has reportedly turned down an invitation for unknown reasons while it has also been recently suggested that Gerard Pique will not attend because of the frosty relationship his wife Shakira shares with Roccuzzo.
That rift, however, was denied as recently as this month with the Colombian pop star insisting they will go to the wedding if it fits into their schedule.
‘I don’t know where that has come from, I don’t understand it at all because everyone has often seen us together,’ Shakira said while promoting her new album. ‘If we can go to their wedding, we will go.’
Around 200 security guards, coordinated by a former Argentinian military official, will turn the venue into something of a fortress although it is believed a large screen will be erected outside the grounds so Messi’s adoring fans can watch the ceremony.
And security is right to be tight. Poverty remains rife in Rosario with gang-related violence still a huge problem for the area. In fact, the sister of notorious gang leader Ariel Cantero was killed in a shooting just half a mile away from the venue last week.
Messi, who earns £360,000-a-week at Barcelona, has asked attendees not to provide presents but instead requested donations to his personal charity, the Leo Messi Foundation, which has worked with young children in Rosario and across the world.