Latin America & Caribbean

Messi statue unveiled in Argentina amid pleas for his return

A boy wears a Lionel Messi jersey as he approaches the statue of Argentina's soccer player Messi after it was unveiled in Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 28, 2016. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Fans gathered at the newly unveiled statue to pay their tribute

A bronze statue of Argentine football star Lionel Messi has been unveiled in Buenos Aires just days after the player announced he was retiring from the national team.

Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Larreta Rodriguez unveiled the statue on the shores of the River Plate.

Messi made the announcement following Argentina's defeat by Chile in the Copa America final.

Since then, there has been an outpouring of support for the player.

Argentines have been using social media to ask the 29-year-old to reconsider his decision under the hashtag #NoTeVayasLio (Don't go, Lio).

'Mexit' leaves Messi fans pleading for change of heart

Messi's career in photos

Among those trying to convince Messi to stay was President Mauricio Macri.

He tweeted: "More than ever I feel a great pride for our national team. I hope that the joy of seeing the world's best will continue for many more years. #Don'tgoLio

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption President Macri joined in Argentines' pleas for Messi to stay

The hashtag has even appeared on electronic signs normally used to post traffic warnings on Buenos Aires streets.

Fans of the player gathered at the statue on Tuesday.

Image copyright Reuters

Many wore replicas of Messi's shirt while others tried to imitate his skills in front of the statue.

The bronze statue was erected on Paseo de la Gloria (Glory Street), which already boasts statues of other famous Argentine sports starts such as tennis player Gabriela Sabatini and basketball player Manuel Ginobili.

Following the defeat in the Copa America final on Sunday, Messi said that "for me, the national team is over".

"I've done all I can. It hurts not to be a champion," he added.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Messi made the announcement after missing a penalty in the Copa America final

As well as losing two Copa America finals on penalties to Chile, Messi was in the Argentina side beaten 1-0 by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final.

He has been very successful at club level though, winning eight La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues with Spanish side Barcelona.

He has also also awarded the Ballon d'Or five times.

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