Nobody is a prophet in his own land, not even universally acclaimed Barcelona striker and Argentina international Lionel Messi. Sometime in the early hours of Tuesday morning, a life-size bronze statue of the soccer star on the Paseo de la Gloria in Buenos Aires was broken in half, leaving just his legs in place. The head and torso are missing.
The act of vandalism was committed just hours after Cristiano Ronaldo was named FIFA’s Best Men’s Player, prompting a storm of comments on the social networks, with most people criticizing those responsible. But a significant minority used the news as an excuse to make jokes at Messi’s expense.
“Messi’s statue wasn’t broken, with the heat at the moment, his chest melted, that’s all,” a reference to one of the most common insults Messi’s critics have made, that he has a “cold chest”, or lacks blood. “They cut the head off Messi, then he leaves the national side and they cry, this country is full of jarheads,” said another in the player’s defense.
A significant minority used the news as an excuse to make jokes at Messi’s expense
Outside Argentina, Messi is usually compared to Ronaldo, but at home, the striker is more often likened to Diego Maradona. Argentineans expect the captain of the national side to win the World Cup, which Maradona managed in 1986. As well as his inability to procure silverware, Messi is also dismissed by many in his home country as lacking in character and personality.
Opinion of the captain of the national side was further divided in June when the player missed his penalty in the shootout at the end of the Copa America final against Chile, which Argentina lost for the third consecutive time. Within hours Messi announced he was retiring from the national side, prompting a campaign on the social networks for him to stay. Soon after, he announced he was returning to the side.
English version by Nick Lyne.