Rosario June 30 (TNS): Football superstar Lionel Messi will marry his childhood sweetheart in his hometown in Argentina on Friday.
The Barcelona player is returning to the city of Rosario to wed Antonella Roccuzzo, whom he met there before he moved to Spain aged 13.
Argentine newspaper Clarín has called it “the wedding of the year” and even “the wedding of the century”.
Messi’s teammates, including Luis Suárez and Neymar, will be among the 260 guests, it said.
Many have flown in on private jets.
Extra police officers have been drafted in to ensure security is maintained around the hotel, while a private security firm will work inside to keep out any potential gatecrashers.
Around 150 journalists have received accreditation to enter a special press area, but will not have full access to the venue, said organisers.
Where did the bride and groom meet?
Messi, 30, met his future wife when he was just five years old.
She is the cousin of his best friend, Lucas Scaglia, who also became a professional football player.
Messi accepted an offer to play for Barcelona when he was 13, on condition they pay for treatment for his growth hormone deficiency.
He has spoken about the difficulties he faced on leaving behind his loved ones and former club.
The couple, who now live in Barcelona, have two sons together.
In 2016, he was given a 21-month jail term for tax evasion in Spain and the case has been subject he is unlikely to go to prison as the sentence can b served under probation or possibly avoided by paying a fine.
What do we know about the big day?
The event will take place at Rosario’s City Center hotel complex, which has an adjoining casino.
Ms Roccuzzo, 29, is expected to wear a dress by Rosa Clara, a Barcelona-based designer who has dressed actress Eva Longoria and Spain’s Queen Letizia.
Aside from a “sushi station”, the menu is a very Argentine affair, including empanadas (traditional pasties) and all parts of the cow, from a casserole of sweetbreads to blood sausage.
Who is on the guest list?
Messi is reported to have invited the Barcelona squad, including Gerald Piqué and his pop-star wife Shakira.
Teammates from Argentina’s national team, including Sergio Agüero, will also be present.
Clarín reported that he has not invited any of his recent coaches, including Pep Guardiola, who is now at Manchester City.
Argentina’s other big football legend, Diego Maradona, is also not on the list, according to the local press.
Where is Rosario?
The port city of Rosario sits on the banks of the Paraná, about 300km north-west of Buenos Aires in the centre of the country.
Another famous Argentine to have spent his early years here is Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
Messi is known locally simply as Lío.
He has been a local hero since his days as a star player for Newell’s Old Boys.
The team has a staunch rivalry with nearby Rosario Central, similar to that of Boca Juniors and River Plate in Buenos Aires.
Since moving to Spain, Messi has won a record-breaking five Fifa Ballon d’Or awards. Courtesy BBC