Lionel Messi scores first half HAT-TRICK in Maxi Rodriguez’s farewell game in Rosario hometown
Lionel Messi scores a HATTRICK in the first half in Maxi Rodriguez’s farewell match in his hometown of Rosario – and the packed stadium even sings him Happy Birthday!
Lionel Messi scored a first-half hat-trick during an appearance in his hometown for an exhibition game in honor of his Argentina teammate Maxi Rodriguez.
Retiring from football, Rodriguez had a long list of Argentine greats at Marcelo Bielsa’s stadium – none more so than Messi himself on his 36th birthday.
And the Inter Miami-bound star showed exactly why he is so revered in Argentina with a magnificent performance in front of the 42,000 fans in attendance – scoring a hat-trick in the first half in an Argentina team’s match against Newell’s Old Boys.
The crowd even chanted ‘happy birthday’ to Messi and the superstar said after the game that it felt special to spend a birthday in Rosario, the city where he lived as a child before attending Barcelona’s football academy in his teens.
Messi’s first goal came after just four minutes, when he fired a stunning left free kick into the top corner.
Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick in the first half in an exhibition game in Argentina on Saturday
Messi featured in the game as a tribute to retired ex-Argentine teammate Maxi Rodriguez
The crowd even sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Messi as he celebrated turning 36
He chipped the goalkeeper with a sublime finish for his second before hugging him as the ball bounced into the net. For his third, just before half-time, he controlled a high pass into the penalty area before sending the ball into goal.
“It had been a long time since I spent a birthday in Rosario, with my family and my friends,” Messi told ESPN Argentina.
Messi also spoke to the crowd about what it meant to win the World Cup at last year’s tournament in Qatar.
It is the first to become world champion, so it is also special. It is always special to be in Rosario.
“As I said then: it was our turn to become world champions, but behind us were millions of impressive players who, in addition to not winning a cup, have done many great things with the national team.”
Hinting at his upcoming Major League Soccer move, Messi added: “While what we’ve done is something special (winning the World Cup) and unique, every footballer’s dream… you think more than ever about what’s to come .” what you did.
“When it’s my turn to leave football, I’ll remember a lot more and enjoy everything I’ve achieved.”
Rodriguez retires at the age of 42, ending his career with Messi’s boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys.
Messi was at the game to pay tribute to outgoing winger Maxi Rodriguez (left)
Rodriguez (center) had some Argentine stars on hand to celebrate his career
He played 10 years in Europe from 2002 to 2012, most notably with Atletico Madrid and Liverpool before returning to Argentina.
Meanwhile, Messi’s Miami team was thrashed 4-1 by the Philadelphia Union in Major League Soccer on Saturday night.
It leaves the team last in the Eastern Conference and sparks genuine fear for the team reaching the playoffs, even if Messi joins them.