Lionel Messi rarely gets cut down on the soccer field, using his agility and extraordinary dribbling skills, not to mention his diminutive stature, to stymie his opponents’ efforts. However, a statue of the Argentine star has not proved so elusive, as it was recently attacked by vandals for the second time this year.
Situated along the Paseo de la Gloria (“walkway of glory”) in Buenos Aires among tributes to other sports heroes from the country, including Manu Ginobili and Gabriela Sabatini, Messi’s statue was found severed at the ankles, with most of the figure lying next to its pedestal. As with the first incident, authorities have yet to identify any suspects.
In January, Messi’s statue was discovered without its top half, as vandals apparently made off with its torso, arms and head. In 2014, the racket held by Sabatini’s statue was cut off and stolen.
Messi’s statue was installed in June 2016, and the honor was widely viewed as an attempt to get him to reconsider his decision to retire from Argentina’s national team, following his country’s defeat to Chile in the Copa America final. That marked the fourth time a Messi-led Argentina squad lost in the final of a major international tournament, including the 2007 and 2015 Copa America and the 2014 World Cup, and he had come under some criticism for not achieving better results.
Despite his enormous success at the individual and club level, including five FIFA player of the year awards and four Champions League titles with Barcelona, Messi is not universally adored in his home country. That stems not only from the losses in tournament finals, but also the fact that he left Argentina at age 13, after agreeing to join Barcelona’s youth system.
However, Messi’s retirement announcement was met with widespread dismay in Argentina, and the phrase “No te vayas Lio” (“Dont go, Leo”) began popping up around the country. Just a few weeks later, he had a change of heart, and while Argentina came disconcertingly close to failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Messi almost single-handedly averted disaster by scoring a hat trick in a pivotal win last month over Ecuador.
Read more from The Post: