As a young Newell’s hopeful, Messi used to hang around his buddy’s house in hope of running in to his friend’s beautiful cousin, who years later would become his partner.
The street has not changed much, but the other side of the park now has two synthetic pitches, known to everyone as No. 3 and No. 4. It has undergone alterations, of course.
There previously stood a wall with the great talents who have come out of there, and now there is a huge mural of Marcelo Bielsa’s face and another with the likeness of Isaac Newell, the founder of one of Rosario’s two great clubs.
The Malvinas park, where the Newell’s youth teams still train in seven-a-side games – not 11 – was the place where countless stars left their mark. On the side of pitches 3 and 4, however, someone realized something strange was occurring.
All of his teammates were getting changed, but one was in a hurry and waited impatiently by the door. Enrique Dominguez, the trainer, approached the father of Lucas Scaglia and inquired about what was going on.
“What is El Leo doing standing there?” he asked.
“He is waiting for us to leave because he wants to come to our house,” Scaglia senior replied.
“But why i
s he so anxious if he always goes to your house?” came the reply.
“Because now the weekend is coming around and Antonella, Lucas’ cousin, comes on Saturdays and Sundays. Leo likes her,” the father said.
Like a character from a novel, Lionel Messi fell quickly for Antonella Rocuzzo. She was the cousin of one of his friends and he saw her for the first time while Messi and the friend were playing Playstation. Right then he knew he wanted to be with her forever. They were in the middle of a game, and the girl who lived upstairs from the Scaglias came to ask if they needed anything. Messi’s friends still joke with him about the silly faces he pulled every time the girl came near.
The ´87 category in Newell’s was unstoppable on the pitch, or so they say in the Malvinas park, but also a close-knit group of friends. Messi played in the No. 10 shirt and was the leader, and he found great things among that gang of kids. Among others, the love of his life.
It was not the first time a woman had made Leo go crazy.
Once in a tournament outside Rosario he was dumbstruck at the sight of an older girl, who was around 17. Over the course of two days he could not take his eyes off her for a second. That did not lead anywhere because of the age difference, but more than a few Newell’s people wonder what the girl would think now if she knew that, for a fleeting moment, she had the kid who would end up becoming the best player in the world and one of the most famous individuals on the planet in the palm of her hand.
Despite his slight stature, Messi’s life in Rosario was the same as any young boy. “We were all pretty cowardly with the girls,” one of Messi’s best friends from the neighborhood, Diego, told Goal. When the neighborhood dances started, their lives changed: They stated to comb their hair, get dressed, pay attention to appearance.
“After all that we did nothing all the same because we didn’t have the guts to ask out girls,” his friends, now rock fanatics, say – but they assure that the Barcelona No. 10 prefers tropical music, cumbia, which lets him show off his dance moves.