Lionel Messi married his childhood sweetheart on Friday night at a ceremony in his Argentine hometown. The wedding was attended by about 250 guests, including some of the biggest names in football such as Messi's Barcelona teammates Neymar, Luis Suarez and Gerard Pique, who was joined by his wife, Colombian pop star Shakira.
Lionel Messi is Officially married to Antonella. Been together since the beginning. Congrats Mr. and Mrs. Messi 💍 pic.twitter.com/vKQSBgxjJo— Roberto Carlos JR ⚽️ (@RCjr96) July 1, 2017
Former Barcelona teammates Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol, Cesc Fabregas and Samuel Eto'o were also in attendance. So were Argentine teammates Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Ezequiel Lavezzi.
Argentines were abuzz over the wedding in Rosario, an agricultural hub and the country's third-largest city, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) northwest of Buenos Aires.
About 150 journalists were allowed to cover the event, but had no direct access to the ceremony or the party afterwards.
Many blessings to Lionel Messi and his beloved wife Antonella Roccuzzo, who get married in Rosario, the Barcelona superstar's birthplace pic.twitter.com/nmQZJ0P6aB— Xinhua Sports (@XHSports) July 1, 2017
Curious onlookers gathered before the wedding near the heavily guarded site, hoping to snap photos of the football stars.
Lionel Messi married his childhood sweetheart today. He's not only winning in football, he's winning at life pic.twitter.com/QUKkgKVT9w— carol îmwe (@carxlinv) July 1, 2017
"We think it's great that Messi has come to Rosario to get married," said Julio Sosa, who cleans windows for a living.
Messi, 30, grew up in a lower-middle-class neighborhood in Rosario along with two brothers and a sister. His bride, 29, is the cousin of a close friend of Messi, and the new couple has been close friends since meeting at a young age.
Messi and Roccuzzo stayed in touch after he left to play soccer in Spain at age 13 and they eventually started a romantic relationship in the late 2000s.
Roccuzzo moved to Barcelona, where the couple live with their two sons, 4-year-old Thiago and 1-year-old Mateo. But they often return to their native Rosario.
"Messi could have had this wedding wherever he liked — Dubai, the moon. He can pay any plane ticket to anyone, but he chose the city that's in his heart," said Leandro Macaya.
SPOTTED: Absolute squad touchdown for Lionel Messi's wedding. 👀👌 pic.twitter.com/8ienfX5RlH— SPORF (@Sporf) June 30, 2017
Messi, a five-time Ballon d'Or winner, has faced criticism in Argentina because he has never brought the country a major title, in contrast to his repeated successes playing for Barcelona. But he is praised both at home and abroad for keeping his common touch.
"He was always the same and he never changed," said Diego Vallejos, a childhood friend who was invited to the wedding.
"Despite everything that he's accomplished in life, he's still the same simple kid, the skinny dude that I grew up with. It's hard to explain the feeling — I'm both a friend and a fan.
(With inputs from AP)