Despite the epicentre of Messi-mania being some 11,000 kilometres away, Argentines were glued to their screens this week as they watched Lionel Messi complete his move from Barcelona to Paris. Every detail of the transfer, played out on news channels and websites in an excitable fashion, was closely followed as the Rosario-born superstar signed for Paris St Germain.
"Messi y el día del 10: ¡llegó y revolucionó París!" the frontpage of local sports newspaper Olé enthusiastically declared, reflecting upon the global storm the once-unthinkable transfer had caused.
French and Argentine journalists living in Paris and Barcelona were soon swamping local TV news channels, as anchors quizzed experts about what life would now be like for Messi. Meanwhile, punters on the street were asked to offer their opinions in vox-pops.
"It seems to me that he has already completed his cycle at Barcelona, and it’s a question of new horizons, it’s a change. The truth is that he deserves all the best because he is the best player in the world," said José Iturria, a 60-year-old healthcare professional, on the streets of Buenos Aires.
Darío Luque, 38, said the change of team would give Messi “another air.” He predicted success, given that he would be “surrounded by more stars” at the Qatari-owned club.
“I think it will be good for him and the team," he added.
‘A great ambassador’
On the other side of the ocean, Argentina’s Ambassador to France Leonardo Constatino assured everyone that Messi would be “a great Argentine ambassador in Paris."
"It is a source of pride. An immense joy for all and a great upheaval. We are lucky to have the best player in the world in Paris," he told the C5N news channel. He admitted that he already received "many calls" from people who want to meet the star forward.
Touched by Messi’s tears that had been shared at his farewell press conference in Barcelona, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) put out a video on social networks, telling him to keep his chin up.
“Head up champion. This doesn’t end here, show the world one more time that there is nothing better than an Argentina than getting up when life strikes you down,. Up champion, the best in the world can also happen,” read a message, accompanied by images of the national team captain raising the Copa América trophy in Brazil earlier this summer.
In the view of Elvio Paolorosso, a former fitness coach with Barcelona and Argentina under head coach ‘Tata’ Martino, "PSG is a team full of figureheads and Leo repeats that he wants to continue winning things – it seems to me that it is the ideal team for him."
"The city, the language, will be a problem for the family, but for him it is one of the best teams at the moment, in addition to having an Argentine coach [Mauircio Pochettino] there, who will make things easier for him," Paolorosso told the AM 550 radio station.
"Seeing Barcelona without you will not be the same again." Former Barcelona star Javier Mascherano, ‘el Jefecito,' who shared eight years with Messi in Spain, was among those who posted tributes on social media, highlighting the impact of the superstar.
"How lucky we were, those of us who were lucky enough to see up close how you changed the history of the club!" he wrote, concluding the post on his Instagram account.
"A new stage is beginning and there is no doubt that you will once again leave your indelible mark wherever you want to go. Always the best."