Diego Vallejos is wondering what to wear for his friend’s wedding. He must look the part among the celebrities coming to town — for the groom is football superstar Lionel Messi.
“I am letting my hair grow so that I can get a haircut like a star,” the chuckling Vallejos, a waiter by profession, told AFP in Rosario, the northern Argentine city where he and Messi grew up.
Messi marries his childhood sweetheart Antonella Roccuzzo, 29, on June 30, a week after the player’s 30th birthday, in Latin America’s celebrity wedding of the decade.
Vallejos is one of 250 people on the guest list — others include Barcelona stars such as Gerard Pique and his popstar wife Shakira, according to Argentina media.
“Most of all I just want to be with Lionel. But I am going to mingle a bit with the other guests” at the bash in the City Center hotel and casino, Vallejos said.
Vallejos spoke to AFP near the primary school which he and the future soccer star attended. They would play football together in the humble southern district of Las Heras where they grew up.
Messi is widely considered the world’s best footballer. But he is far from being the first soccer star to come from this city of 1.2 million people.
“Rosario lives and breathes football. That is another reason Lionel feels so comfortable here,” the city’s mayor, Monica Fein, told AFP.
“All his life he has been linked to Rosario. I think he is excited that through his wedding his friends (from abroad) will be able to get to know the city he loves so much.”
As well as Ernesto “Che” Guevara, one of the leaders of the Cuban revolution, Rosario has spawned some of the biggest names in Argentine soccer.
They include the coach of the 1978 World Cup-winning Argentina side, Cesar Luis Menotti, and current players such as Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano.
Rumours have swirled about the details of the wedding, and there have been numerous reported changes to the arrangements.
Local wedding planners Farina-Pavia confirmed they had been hired to organise the event, but said they had signed a confidentiality agreement not to talk about it.
Messi has reportedly requested that the wedding feast be made up of local specialities such as “empanada” pasties, “locro” stew and typical Argentina roast meat.
Authorities insist that security will not be a problem, even though Rosario is considered one of the most dangerous cities in Argentina.
The City Center complex is next to one of the city’s roughest districts.
A local government source told AFP the Messi family had asked that “the wedding not affect the daily life of the city or the traffic.”
Argentina media reported that Messi’s own security team will take care of his security.
Rosario newspaper La Capital said the bride would wear a dress by Spanish designer Rosa Clara.
As wedding gifts, the couple have asked that guests make donations to Messi’s charity foundation for children.
“That is for the VIPs,” says Vallejos. “I’m going to give something more symbolic. Maybe a pair off those cufflinks you wear on your sleeves.”
Messi and the brunette Roccuzzo live in Barcelona where he plays but still return regularly to Rosario on holiday.
“It’s no surprise that he is coming back here to get married,” Vallejos says.
“He has always been the same. He is an ordinary person who just wants to be near his family and friends. He is a humble person. Money has not changed his personality.”
The couple had their two children baptised there last year: Thiago, 4 and one-year-old Mateo, both born in Barcelona.
Messi and Roccuzzo met as children. He moved to Spain when he was 13 to join FC Barcelona. But they kept in touch.
“They are the love of each other’s lives,” says Vallejos.
“I am eager to share this moment with him. He was humble enough to invite me, one of his oldest friends from an ordinary family.”