ARGENTINA – In Argentina, gunmen threatened Lionel Messi in a written message left at a supermarket owned by his in-laws, police said.
There were no injuries in Thursday’s attack, and it is unclear why assailants targeted Messi or Unico supermarket, owned by Antonella Roccuzzo’s family in Rosario, Argentina’s third-largest city.
In Rosario, 190 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, the mayor, Pablo Javkin, went to the supermarket and slammed the federal government for not curbing the surge in drug-related violence.
On Thursday morning, police said two motorcycle riders fired at least a dozen shots into the Unico branch and left a cardboard message that read, “Messi, we’re waiting for you. Javkin is also a drug trafficker, so he won’t take care of you.”
No comments have been made by Messi. Known to many as one of the greatest football players of all time, Messi is revered in Argentina, especially after leading the national team to its first World Cup victory in 36 years.
Currently, Messi plays for Paris Saint-Germain and spends most of his time overseas, though he has a home in Rosario’s suburb of Funes. Messi was pictured training on Thursday morning by the French team.
According to Rosario prosecutor Federico Rebola, the investigation is “preliminary” and authorities are reviewing security camera footage. Adding to the threat, Messi’s in-laws had never received one before.
Rosario’s justice minister, Celia Arena, called the attack “terrorism” by a “mafia” group meant to intimidate the broader population.
“The aim is to deliberately cause terror in the population and discourage those of us who are fighting against criminal violence, knowing that it will be an event of global significance,” Arena wrote in a social media post.
Javkin appeared to suggest criminal gangs and federal security officials were involved in the attack, which was opposed by the ruling Coalition of the Peronists.
“I doubt everyone, even those who are supposed to protect us,” Javkin said in an interview with a local radio station.
Recently, he had “very strong discussions” with federal security forces over the past few weeks to demand that the police crackdown on crime in the city.
“Where are the ones who need to take care of us?” Javkin said. “It’s clear that those who have the weapons and have the possibility of investigating the criminals aren’t doing it, and it’s very easy for any gang to carry out something like this.”
Security minister Anibal Fernandez said the drug-related violence wasn’t new to the city and Thursday’s attack was typical of what has happened “over the last 20 years ”.
He said, as a result of the incident, drug traffickers “have won” in Rosario, but now “we need to reverse that”.
PSG is currently renegotiating Messi’s contract, which ends this year, amid speculation that he might opt to retire to a Rosario club called Newell’s.
Messi, who won FIFA’s best men’s player award this week, might play two friendlies for Argentina later this month. The first game will be against Panama in Buenos Aires on March 23, and the second will be against Curacao in Santiago del Estero five days later.