Rosario had dared to dream, but was left disappointed after the Argentine city’s most celebrated son Lionel Messi announced he was staying at Barcelona.
When Messi told the Spanish giants last week he wanted to quit the club, some back in his home town and at Newell’s Old Boys, the club where he played junior football, allowed themselves to imagine the 33-year-old superstar returning home to play for his boyhood team.
Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a week ago hundreds of Newell’s fans organised a colourful vehicle procession through the town under the banner: “Your dream, our hope.”
But after 10 days of anxious waiting, there was to be no fairytale homecoming. Despite Friday’s deflation, many Newell’s fans still believe the prodigal son will one day return home.
“No one in their right mind could imagine that he would come back now,” Diego Schwarzstein, an endocrinologist who treated Messi as a boy, told AFP.
“I’m from Rosario, a Newell’s fan and I desperately want to see him here; but for now, it’s wishful thinking. I’m not frustrated that he’s not coming now because it wasn’t realistic to think about this.
“But if he retires from football without coming to Newell’s, then I would feel great frustration.
“I hope that he will indulge himself — and also give us Newell’s fans that pleasure too.”
The diminutive Messi left Newell’s at the age of 13 as his family emigrated to Spain after Catalan giants Barcelona offered to pay for his growth hormone treatment, among other benefits.
At the age of 10, he had been diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency.
“Every time there is talk of his contract renewal, we fans dream, even though we know it’s very difficult because his reality is in Europe now,” said Lisandro Leoni, a journalist and “Leper,” as Newell’s fans are known.