More than 250 friends and family – including some of football’s biggest names – jetted to Argentina, to watch the sporting star, 30, marry Antonella Roccuzzo, 29, at the plush hotel complex as an alleged family feud threatened to overshadow the day.
The couple, who have known each other for some 25 years, banned mobile phones at the event. Staff were also sworn to secrecy and 450 police officers were drafted in for the big day.
Shakira and her husband, Messi’s teammate Gerard Pique, arrived at the airport and headed to the wedding venue to join 260 guests including numerous footballers such as Messi’s Barcelona strike partners Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Argentine media called it the “wedding of the century” for Rosario, the gritty northern port city where Messi, 30, and his bride 29, met when the player was nine years old. The party will be a respite for Messi from his legal woes. A Spanish court last month rejected his appeal against a conviction for tax fraud.
Brunette bride Roccuzzo, 29, will wear a gown by Rosa Clara — a Spanish designer who has dressed actress Eva Longoria and Spain’s Queen Letizia.
The wedding is scheduled at 2200 GMT in the City Center casino, which stands right next to a crime-ridden slum run by drug gangs.
The civil wedding ceremony and party will all take place inside the venue, and the guests will be lodged there too.
The couple have reportedly spent the past two weeks in Rosario with family, but have kept out of sight of the reporters who have invaded the city.
Rumors circulated of bachelor and bachelorette parties, but the only evidence that emerged was a photo, posted by ex-Barca goalkeeper Jose Pinto, of Messi enjoying a barbecue with a few friends.
Some friends of Roccuzzo have shared pictures of her relaxing with relatives.
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