Sao Paulo, Jun 26: Brazil loves to hate Argentina but Lionel Messi is one of a kind and his wizardry with the ball, which best captures the essence of the ‘beautiful game’, has even caught the fancy of his country’s biggest rival in international football. From one of their very own legends, Ronaldo, to a group of drunken youths roaming the streets of Rio de Janeiro at the dead of night, the just-turned 27-year-old man with boyish looks has been the buzzword for a while now.
Ronaldo had said that Messi would be the first player chosen by him if he could include a foreign player in Brazil’s national team.
“If Messi did not play for Argentina, I would love to have him (with us). I would prefer Messi to Diego (Maradona), even though Diego is also my friend,” Ronaldo had said.
Then there was a lookalike of another Selacao great, Ronaldinho, who was escorted off the field after an attempt to get closer to the Barcelona star during one of Argentina’s open training session in Belo Horizonte recently. Messi tops the goal chart with four goals to his name alongside Brazil’s Neymar.
The admiration that Messi is earning in Brazil is in stark contrast to the hostile rivalry the two teams share on the football field.
And it appears set to get better with his double strike paving the way for Argentina’s qualification into the pre-quarterfinals of the ongoing tournament as group leader.
Fans sporting Messi’s number 10 jersey or showering praises on the genius from Rosario has become a normal thing in the host cities of Rio, Belo Horizonte or Sao Paulo.