Messi's bride Antonella, 'first lady of football'
Celebrity magazines have dubbed brunette mother-of-two Antonella Roccuzzo "the first lady of football" — her man, Lionel Messi, is widely considered the best player on the planet.
Showbiz and football stars will attend their wedding on Friday in the couple's hometown of Rosario, Argentina.
But friends here in their home city in northern Argentina insist the two are humble folk who have never forgotten where they come from.
Seen as a man of few words, the millionaire Barcelona striker lets his feet do the talking — and his bride in public says even less. Her family members have also avoided talking to the crowds of reporters who have invaded the city ahead of the wedding.
Roccuzzo's father Jose is the owner of a chain of local supermarkets, Unico. He was formerly president of a regional supermarket owners' association. Apart from that, he is said to be a keen fan of Newell's Old Boys — Messi's boyhood club in Rosario.
Roccuzzo grew up in the upper middle-class Bella Vista district and went to a private school, says one friend of the family who asked not to be named. Diego Vallejos, a childhood friend and neighbor of the Messis, said the couple met aged nine and Messi "fell in love forever at first sight" with Roccuzzo. "We will always remember Antonella as being around this neighborhood and as being Messi's girl," said another friend, Franco Lentini, who grew up in the same modest neighborhood as the player.
"They are the love of each other's lives," said Vallejos.
Messi moved to Spain aged 13 to join FC Barcelona, but he kept telephoning Roccuzzo and writing her letters.
Meanwhile, football and showbiz stars gathered in Argentina for Latin America's celebrity wedding bash of the decade as Messi prepared to marry his childhood sweetheart.
Pop star Shakira and her husband, Messi's teammate Gerard Pique, were expected among the 260 guests, according to media and locals close to the event.
They will join old friends of the couple and footballers, including his Barcelona strike partners Neymar and Luis Suarez, in Messi's northern hometown, Rosario.
Suarez and other soccer stars were watched by curious locals as they stepped off private jets on Thursday at Rosario's airport.