A supermarket owned by Lionel Messi’s wife’s family was attacked by gunmen. Glenn Gervot/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Gunmen left a threatening message for Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi after attacking a supermarket owned by his in-laws in Rosario, Argentina, Rosario police confirmed on Thursday.
Fourteen shots were reportedly fired at the shutters and front door of the food store “Unico,” which is located in the Lavalle district of Rosario, in the early hours of Thursday by two individuals on a motorbike.
Nobody was injured in the early morning attack, and it was unclear why assailants would target Messi or the Unico supermarket in the country’s third-largest city of Rosario, owned by the family of his wife, Antonela Roccuzzo.
Police also said the attackers left a threatening note written on a piece of cardboard that said: “Messi, we are waiting for you. Javkin is a drug dealer. He is not going to look after you.”
An investigation is underway. Pablo Javkin is the mayor of Rosario, the largest city in the central province of Santa Fe, 300 kilometres (186 miles) north of Buenos Aires in Argentina.
After Thursday’s incident, Javkin spoke to reporters about the increase in violence in Rosario and the shortage of police and lack of protection in the city.
Javkin’s concerns are not new. He had voiced his frustration earlier this week about the lack of protection and the need for more police officers in a city where crime is on the rise.
Javkin tweeted: “Rosario is 300km [from Buenos Aires], it is near. We want to get all the resources against crime that Argentina has to take care of us, to protect this city that gives the country glory and science, countryside and art, federalism and union.”
Neither Messi, who on Monday won Best FIFA Men’s Player after captaining Argentina to the 2022 World Cup trophy, nor his wife — both are from Rosario — has commented on the incident.
Widely considered the greatest soccer player of all time, Messi currently plays for Paris Saint-Germain and spends much of his time overseas, although he often visits Rosario, where he has a home in the suburb of Funes. The French team posted a photo on social media of Messi training on Thursday morning.
In Rosario, prosecutor Federico Rébola said that authorities were reviewing security camera footage and that the investigation was “preliminary.” It was the first time Messi’s in-laws had received this kind of threat, he added.
Celia Arena, justice minister for Santa Fe province, where Rosario is located, said the attack amounted to “terrorism” by a “mafia” group meant to intimidate the broader population.
“The aim is to deliberately cause terror in the population and discourage those of us who are fighting against criminal violence, knowing that it will be an event of global significance,” Arena wrote in a social media post.
Javkin, a center-left politician in opposition to the ruling Peronist coalition, appeared to throw suspicion of complicity for the attack on both criminal gangs and federal security officials.
“I doubt everyone, even those who are supposed to protect us,” Javkin said in an interview with a local radio station.
He said he had recently had “very strong discussions” with members of the federal security forces over the past couple of weeks demanding that they crack down on the city’s crime.
“Where are the ones who need to take care of us?” Javkin said. “It’s clear that those who have the weapons and have the possibility of investigating the criminals aren’t doing it, and it’s very easy for any gang to carry out something like this.”
The federal government’s security minister, Aníbal Fernández, said that drug-related violence was not a recent phenomenon in the city and that Thursday’s attack was typical of what has happened there “for the last 20 years.”
He said that the incident was an example of how drug traffickers “have won” in Rosario and that “we have to reverse that.”
Opposition politicians blamed President Alberto Fernández’s administration for the continuing violence in Rosario. His predecessor, Mauricio Macri, characterized the events as a warning that the country cannot “coexist” with drug traffickers.
Messi, 35, is currently renegotiating a contract with PSG that ends this year amid speculation that the soccer superstar could decide to end his career playing for one of the local Rosario clubs, Newell’s.
Messi could travel to Argentina later this month to join the national squad in playing two friendly matches. One takes place March 23 against Panama in Buenos Aires, while the other one will be five days later against Curacao in the northern city of Santiago del Estero.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.