LIONEL MESSI hails from Rosario, a city of around 1.5million within the Argentine province of Santa Fe.

Also from Rosario is Gerardo Martino – the man currently planning to dump him out of his final World Cup.

Gerardo Martino managed Messi for a season at Barcelona


Gerardo Martino managed Messi for a season at BarcelonaCredit: AFP
Martino, 60, also coached Messi as Argentina boss


Martino, 60, also coached Messi as Argentina bossCredit: Getty

At the age of 35, Messi is on his fifth and final attempt at winning the trophy that has so far eluded him during his glittering career.

After his side fell to a shock 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia earlier this week, however, they already find themselves on the ropes.

And the man that could mastermind the knockout blow is none other than fellow son of Rosario Martino – currently boss of the Mexico national team.

Should El Tri win on Saturday, Messi and Co will be eliminated from the tournament with a group game still to play.

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Martino’s links with Messi go way back.

The 60-year-old was a fine attacking midfielder in his playing career, representing Newell’s Old Boys in three separate stints before also going on to manage them.

In fact, during Martino’s final spell as a player with Newell’s in 1995, an eight-year-old Leo Messi had just joined their academy.

Messi would pack his bags for Barcelona five years later, where his path would eventually cross with Martino again.


After his spell as manager of Newell’s during the 2012-13 season, Martino found himself in the frame for the Barca job – despite having never coached in Europe before.

Messi was an outspoken supporter of his, saying in 2013: “I like Tata Martino. He is a great coach and he showed that in the Clausura with what he did for the team, the way it ended and how he did it. He gets his teams playing well and we all respect him.”

Together at Barca and then with the Argentina national team, they would fail to win any trophies together – finishing as runners-up in LaLiga, the Copa del Rey and twice at the Copa America.

Martino has since rebuilt his career first with Atlanta United in MLS, and now with Mexico.

Reports at the time suggested that the respected coach found it difficult to manage Messi.

Quizzed about these claims, he was noncommittal, saying: “It’s a matter of the past. Now I am the coach of Mexico.

“I believe that people say and do things when we are in the place – after it has no validity.

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“I already expressed myself in those moments and there is nothing that changes my opinion – my time with Barcelona passed a long time ago, and there’s nothing to add.”

Whether or not his memories of managing Messi are marred – Martino could have the last laugh this weekend.

Martino is now coach of Mexico


Martino is now coach of MexicoCredit: AP
Messi's World Cup dreams hang in the balance


Messi’s World Cup dreams hang in the balanceCredit: Getty