BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Gunmen threatened Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi in a written message left Thursday when they opened fire at a supermarket owned by his in-laws in Argentina, police said.
No one was injured in the early morning attack, and it was unclear why the attackers were targeting Messi or the Unico supermarket in the country’s third-largest city, Rosario, owned by the family of his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo .
The city’s mayor, Pablo Javkin, went to the supermarket and lambasted federal authorities for what he called their failure to curb a spike in drug-related violence in Rosario, located about 190 miles (300 kilometers) northwest of the capital of Buenos Aires. .
Police say two men on motorbikes fired at least a dozen shots at a Unico branch in the early hours of the morning, leaving a message on the cardboard that read: ‘Messi, we are waiting for you. Javkin is also a drug dealer, so he won’t deal with you.
Messi didn’t comment. Widely regarded as the greatest football player of all time, Messi is revered in Argentina, especially since he led the national team to the country’s first World Cup victory in 36 years in Qatar in December.
Messi currently plays for Paris Saint-Germain and spends much of his time abroad, although he often travels to Rosario where he has a home in the suburb of Funes. The France national team posted a picture on social media of Messi training on Thursday morning.
In Rosario, prosecutor Federico Rébola said authorities were reviewing security camera footage and the investigation was “preliminary”. It was the first time Messi’s in-laws received this kind of threat, he added.
Celia Arena, justice minister for the province of Santa Fe, where Rosario is located, said the attack constituted “terrorism” by a “mafia” group intended to intimidate the general population.
“The goal is to deliberately strike terror into the population and deter those of us who fight against criminal violence, knowing that this will be an event of global significance,” Arena wrote in a social media post. .
Javkin, a center-left politician opposed to the ruling Peronist coalition, appeared to cast suspicions of complicity in 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 recently had “very heated discussions” with members of the federal security forces over the past two weeks, demanding that they crack down on crime in the city.
“Where are those who must take care of us?” Javkin said. “Clearly those who have the guns and the ability to investigate criminals don’t, and it’s very easy for any gang to do something like that.”
Federal Security Minister Aníbal Fernández said drug-related violence was not a recent phenomenon in the city, and that Thursday’s attack was typical of what happened there.” for 20 years”.
He said the incident was an example of how drug traffickers “won” in Rosario, but now “we have to reverse that.”
Opposition politicians blamed President Alberto Fernández’s administration for the continued violence in Rosario. His predecessor, Mauricio Macri, called the events a warning that the country cannot “coexist” with drug traffickers.
Messi, 35, is currently renegotiating a contract with Paris Saint-Germain which ends this year amid speculation the footballing superstar may decide to end his career playing for one of Rosario’s local clubs, Newell’s.
Messi, who won FIFA’s Best Men’s Player award this week, could travel to Argentina later this month to join the national team and play two friendlies. One will take place on March 23 against Panama in Buenos Aires, while the other will take place five days later against Curacao in the northern city of Santiago del Estero.