The Albiceleste is now also the Scaloneta, a sort of symbolic van with Lionel Scaloni at the wheel. The nickname has become more and more popular ahead of the World Cup in Qatar, with Argentina seen as one of the big favourites to win the trophy.
There are different theories as to which moment was the definitive boost for the now-famous nickname, but the local press suggests that it all gained momentum at the Copa América in Brazil in 2021, after the Albiceleste ended a 28-year title drought.
After a 3-0 win over Ecuador in Goiania in the quarter-finals, a meme went viral on social media of Scaloni driving a van, with Messi at his side and the rest of the team behind him, with Ángel Di María in the second row. The vehicle was decorated in the colours of the national side’s kit and on the top was written "La Scaloneta."
The Copa América title, this year's Finalissima between the European and South American champions, and Argentina’s long unbeaten run – which now stands at 36 matches in a row without defeat – has only enhanced the idea of that van driven by Scaloni, a coach who initially provoked little excitement among fans but who has been gradually getting people on board with his project.
Journalist Rodolfo 'Gringo' Cingolani claims to be the originator of the nickname and on a TyC Sports broadcast in November last year, he alluded to it in a conversation with Scaloni himself.
"Thank you if it was you who came up with the nickname. The only thing is that it makes me swell up so much that at times it even makes me nervous," the coach replied in a relaxed tone.
In March this year, Scaloni said at a press conference that he was less in favour of using "La Scaloneta" as an alternative to "La Albiceleste."
"It makes me uncomfortable when they talk about the Scaloneta. I'm very grateful for the love and affection they have for the national team. And if people are amused by the term, that's fine. I can't stop them. But the concept makes me uncomfortable," he admitted.
The trend of punning on the coach's surname in this way has precedent. In 2014, at the start of his successful spell in charge of River Plate, "La Gallardeta" was used in reference to Marcelo Gallardo and among fans, although it had nowhere near the impact that La Scaloneta has now.
More recently and outside Argentina, in Spain "La Xavineta" was used to talk about Xavi Hernández's project at the helm of FC Barcelona, which he joined at the end of 2021.
"La Xavineta continues with his flight," Barça proudly tweeted on their official Twitter feed, also echoing the nickname, which also failed to make as much of an impact as the name on the lips of every Argentines’ tongue.