Rosario, the largest city in the province of Santa Fe in central Argentina, is a bit unique among all the cities in the world which have produced talented footballers at some point in history.
Located less than 300 miles away from the capital, Buenos Aires, Rosario, a village-like community in the city, has left a significant influence on Argentinian football.
Its youth system is quite impressive and has produced numerous talents over the years, including one of the greatest footballers in history, Lionel Andres Messi.
But it doesn’t stop at that.
Many other famous footballers began their playing days in Rosario and ahead of the Albiceleste’s blockbuster 2018 Fifa World Cup last 16 clash against France, we have listed some interesting facts about the city.
Home to many football stars
Along with Barcelona legend Messi, Rosario is also the birthplace of some notable Argentine players like Paris Saint Germain’s Angel di Maria, combative midfielder Ever Banega, full back Cristian Ansaldi and midfielder Giovani lo Celso.
Besides the aforementioned booters, other prominent names include Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi and former midfielder Maxi Rodriguez.
All of these players spent their youth career in Rosario where the fiercest city rivalry between Newell’s Old Boys and Rosario Central only ranks second behind the most anticipated city rivalry in Argentinian football, Boca Juniors v River Plate.
Renowed managers Marcelo “El Loco” Bielsa and Gerardo “Tata” Martino also hail from the city.
El Diego, Messi joined the club in the same year!
Arguably the greatest footballer ever and one of Argentina’s greatest sons, Diego Armando Maradona played briefly for Newell’s in the latter part of 1993, the same year Leo joined the club’s youth team at the age of only six.
Maradona featured in five matches for the Rosario outfit before the 1994 World Cup in USA while Messi continued to don the club’s jersey for a further six years.
Notable stars groomed in Messi’s old club
Newell’s are famous for their youth academy. Footballers produced from this academy have gone on to enjoy distiguished playing careers like Gabriel “Batigol” Batistuta, former Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze, current Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino, ex-Inter defender Walter Samuel and Real Madrid great Jorge Valdano et al.
They were all part of the youth team and later represented the Sky Blues in different World Cup finals. Bielsa also played and cut his coaching teeth at the same club.
Is Messi less popular in his hometown?
American journalist Wright Thompson has traveled different citities of the world. In order to prepare a piece on Messi and his relationship with his hometown, he visited several places in Rosario. He wrote in his piece, “We noticed a sports bar across the street, just a few blocks from Messi's old neighbourhood. On the windows, there were big photographs of Muhammad Ali, Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal. No Messi.”
Thompson also visited the bar “VIP” owned by Messi’s family but there was no mention of Messi inside.
The TV inside the bar was showing a cooking show while Messi’s game in Barca colours was being broadcast all over the world.
A mural of a young Messi in Newell’s colours at the club’s youth sporting complex is perhaps the only sign that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was a standout player here as a child.
The Machine of ’87
Messi’s greatest accomplishments in Rosario came in Newell’s youth team colours. All the members of the youth side were born in the same year of 1987. The group came to be known as the “Machine of ‘87”, due to their sheer dominance over the opposition youth sides. The group played together for four years, took part in hundreds of games, and lost only once.
Messi’s close ties with Rosario
Messi maintains close ties with his hometown, despite leaving for Camp Nou, Catalonia at the age of 13. He still speaks in his distinct Rosario accent and visits his birthplace whenever he gets the chance. He married a Rosario girl, Antonella Roccuzzo, whom he met when he was only five years old. He also keeps in regular touch with his friends from the Machine of ’87 squad.
Birthplace of Che
Besides football, Rosario has also given birth to some extraordinary and historical characters, none more famous than Latin American revolutionary hero, Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Che was born and raised in Rosario. Che however, was more interested in rugby, also a popular Argentine sport, when he was young. Che was a fan of Rosario Central, the arch-rival of Messi’s Newell’s.