Messi bade a tearful farewell on Sunday to FC Barcelona on Sunday
From posing for selfies to enjoying seafront meals and taking his children to bouncy castles, Lionel Messi’s down-to-earth existence won him the admiration of many locals in his longtime hometown Barcelona.
Messi bade a tearful farewell on Sunday to FC Barcelona on Sunday, preparing to find a new life away from Castelldefels, the Barcelona suburb he called home.
The multi-millionaire Argentine, with the club for 21 years, has often been spotted dining with his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo, in beachside bars or taking their three children to bouncy castles. He would pose for selfies with locals.
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When Messi suffered an injury five years ago that stopped him playing for weeks, local resident Andy Tomlinson said he jokingly offered Messi another job and the soccer player played along with the joke.
“When Messi hurt his leg, I said it must be a worry that he could not do his job but I said I had a job which only required him to assemble stuff with his hands,” said Tomlinson, 47, a Briton who runs a business making instruments to measure light intensity.
“He smiled and said ‘maybe another time’.”
Maxim Papais, 11, said he would often see Messi as he walked home from school and the pair would wave to each other.
“I will always remember Messi as this famous footballer who used to wave to me,” he said.
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Messi was known to enjoy local Argentine restaurants in Castelldefels.
“He comes to eat here often or buys our meat to have a dinner at his home,” said Dani Iza, manager of La Pampa.
Messi, 34, told a press conference on Sunday that he had “grown up in the club and I became the man I am here”.
Barcelona said it had to let him go because the Argentine’s deal would have taken salaries to 110% of the club’s earnings, even after he agreed to a 50% pay cut.
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The club said this would jeopardise its future given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to comply with the financial rules of Spain’s La Liga competition.