The name Lucas Scaglia may not mean much to most people but without him, Lionel Messi’s marriage to childhood sweetheart Antonela Roccuzzo may never have happened.
While playing for Newell’s Old Boys as kids, so the story goes, Scaglia and Messi became friends off the pitch.
A young Messi soon began spending an increasing amount of time at the Scaglia family home after laying eyes on his friend’s cousin, Antonela Roccuzzo.
The story came full circle Friday, more than 20 years later, when Barcelona star Messi — arguably the world’s best player — and Roccuzzo tied the knot back where they first met in their hometown of Rosario.
“Being who he is, he could have been married in the best place in the world, and must have had many offers,” Enrique Domínguez, Messi’s former coach at Newell’s Old Boys, told CNN’s Ivan Sarmenti.
“He must have had offers so that his wedding, the best moment of his life, could take place where others wanted — and yet he chose Rosario.
“And the place where the wedding is taking place is very close where he was born, he lived and grew up.”
Domínguez recalls the painful moment a tearful 12-year-old Messi had to leave Argentina for Spain to undergo treatment for an illness, leaving behind his friends, family, school and Roccuzzo.
Without the financial means to travel between the two countries, it would be a few years until the pair would see each other again.
During his early years in the Barcelona first team, Messi’s relationship with Roccuzzo was kept under wraps, until the pair — who are now parents to 4-year-old Thiago and 1-year-old Mateo — were widely identified as a couple by the world’s media before the 2010 World Cup.
Home sweet home
Despite spending more than half of his life in Barcelona, Dominguez says he isn’t surprised Messi chose to return home to marry.
“That he chose his city, to choose Rosario to come to marry, to bring his companions of Barcelona and other guests to discover the city that saw him grow … it’s just who Leo is,” Dominguez says.
“A guy with affection, with memory, a grateful guy because being who he is could have been married in the best place in the world.”
Situated almost 300km to the north of Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires, Rosario is the third most populous city in the country.
The public was not allowed access to the hotel where the wedding took place, instead watching on big screens in other parts of the city.
Around 250 guests were expected to attend, including Messi’s Barcelona teammates Neymar, Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez. Colombian singer Shakira, who is married to Pique, was also expected to be there.
“I like the idea of him coming to marry here,” Martin Brebbia, a student in Rosario, told CNN. “To come closer to their family, to the friendships that they have here.
“But that makes me happy, that he’s approached the city and that they are holding it here “
The wedding venue is in ‘Las Flores’ district, one of the most dangerous areas of the city and somewhere ‘La Banda de los Monos’ — one of the country’s most famous narcos groups — have great influence.
The guests will be watched over by 350 members of “various forces of provincial and federal security,” according to the Secretary of Public Security.
More than 150 journalists covered the event, which took place at 7 p.m. local time.
The wedding caps quite the week for the world’s two best footballers, after Cristiano Ronaldo announced he had become a father to twins.