ROSARIO, Argentina (AFP) – Lionel Messi’s Barcelona teammates landed in private jets in his Argentine hometown on Thursday on the eve of the star striker’s celebrity wedding.
Curious locals watched stars such as Luis Suarez and Carles Puyol as well as ex-Barca and current Chelsea player Cesc Fabregas disembark at the small airport in the northern city of Rosario.
A host of footballing stars including Barcelona striker Neymar and ex-Barca star Xavi Hernandez were expected among the 260 guests at Friday’s wedding at the Hotel City Centre Casino.
“Is that Neymar or Xavi? Ah, whatever, take a photo all the same,” said one local woman to her grandchildren as they watched from the terminal.
The players arrived dressed in caps, hoods and dark sunglasses, with suitcases in hand.
Local reporters broadcasting from the scene on radio and television told their audiences it was “the wedding of the century” for Rosario.
Authorities said 300 police officers were deployed at key points in the gritty port city – the birthplace of the bloody drug gang Los Monos – to ensure that guests traveled safely to the venue.
With a homicide rate twice the national rate, Rosario is considered one of Argentina’s most dangerous cities.
But Messi, 30, and his childhood sweetheart Roccuzzo, 29, return every year to visit their families.
Also expected among the wedding guests – and sure to draw the attention of starstruck fans at the airport – are Messi’s teammate Gerard Pique and his wife, Colombian pop star Shakira.