ROSARIO, Argentina — Before becoming a Barcelona legend, winning the World Cup for his country and moving to MLS club Inter Miami via Paris Saint-Germain, Lionel Messi lived until he was 13 in Rosario, Argentina.
The seven-time winner of the Ballon d’Or has become a tourist attraction in the football-obsessed city, which does not hide the pride of having produced arguably the greatest player of all time.
ESPN visited the neighbourhood of La Bajada, in the southern part of Rosario, and found the house where Messi grew up, his old school, the field he played on as a child, his first club and much more.
Located No. 500 on a street named Estado de Israel, the simple house that Messi grew up in is decorated with Argentina flags and a few messages for the star.
All of the windows and doors are shut, with no sign of anyone actually living there today.
Despite looking abandoned, Messi’s presence is still felt in the form of a mural on the side of the house.
School No. 66: General Las Heras. This is where Messi learned to read and write. He attended the public institution, just a few blocks from his home, for the first eight years of his education.
The star returned there in 2007 for a reunion that was organised to welcome him after he had become a young star at Barcelona.
In 2015, Brazilian artist Paulo Consentino painted a mural of Messi wearing the Argentina shirt in the school’s courtyard.
Behind the school, there is still a square with toys, which has become a place of leisure for local children.
Murals that are out of this world
It was in La Bajada that Messi and his family lived, and the neighbourhood has tributes to the Argentina captain everywhere: on lampposts, on pavements and, above all, on the walls.
The largest of them was painted in 2021, near the house where the Messis lived. On it, there is the phrase alluding to the “extraterrestrial” nickname given to Leo by many of his teammates: “From another galaxy and from my neighbourhood.”
The ‘field of dreams’
Here is the field on which Messi displayed his burgeoning skills as a child, and where he played with his friends and rode his bike
Today, it is a large recreational area where families gather to chat while children play.
Club Abanderado Grandoli
Messi was in the stands of the Abanderado Grandoli club field with his grandmother Celia to watch his older brother Matias play. When a player from the team was missing, the youngest of the Messi family was invited by coach Salvador Aparicio to take part in the match.
Messi scored a hat trick and, as a child, joined the Abanderado Grandoli.
El Coloso del Parque
Like any fan of Newell’s Old Boys, Messi is familiar with the club’s stadium, now renamed the Estadio Marcelo Bielsa after the club’s celebrated former player and manager.
Messi was a member of the Argentine club’s youth teams from the age of 6 to 13, at which time he joined Barcelona’s La Masia academy as the Spanish giants were able to provide the growth treatment he could not get at home.
Newell’s fans dream to this day of a possible return for Messi at the end of his career, something that the man himself has pledged on several occasions.
Santafesiano Sports Museum
A few blocks from Messi’s home is the Museo del Deporte Santafesiano, which tells the story of athletes born in the province of Santa Fe.
The highlight is the football floor, which is dedicated to Messi. There, visitors will find Messi-related headlines from newspapers and magazines all over the world, videos of him in action and, of course, a replica of the greatest achievement of his career: the World Cup trophy.
This article was first published in Portuguese by ESPN Brasil on Aug. 7, 2023