BUENOS AIRES : Lionel Messi is joining Paris St Germain and in one corner of Argentina, the dream has died, at least for now.
Messi grew up in Rosario supporting local club Newell’s Old Boys and every time there is speculation over his future the name Newell’s is mentioned as a possible destination.
Argentine football is in a mess, with the clubs in debt and the best players leaving but that does not stop Newell’s fans from dreaming.
"Of course, we get excited at times like this, maybe he will never come but we always have that hope," Juan Jose Cocina, a former president of the club, told Reuters.
"When something like this happens (him leaving Barcelona) the name of our club is always considered because of the affection involved."
Messi arrived in Paris on Tuesday and will reportedly sign a two-year contract with PSG, days after announcing he was leaving Barcelona after 18 years at the Spanish club.
PSG did not confirm the signing but released tantalising videos with a picture of six Ballons d’Or – the same number won by Messi as the best player in the world – and the words "new diamond in Paris".
On arriving at Le Bourget airport, the 34-year forward waved to fans wearing a T-shirt declaring "This is Paris", a slogan often used by PSG players and fans.
The news was no surprise in Rosario, the city that Messi left as a 13-year-old to train with the Barcelona youth teams. Few people expected him to return to Argentina at this point in his career.
But Newell's have good reason to hope he will one day wear their famous blue and red shirt. The other greatest Argentine footballer of all time, Diego Maradona, played for them in the 1993-94 season.
The six-year-old Messi was in the ground for Maradona’s debut and when he died last year Messi paid him tribute by stripping off his Barcelona shirt to reveal the Newell’s shirt the club had worn that season.
Any future partnership between Messi and his boyhood team would add to a growing recognition of the Rosario club.
The Maradona and Messi connections are well known and the success in England of coaches Mauricio Pochettino and Marcelo Bielsa, both former Newell’s players, has added to the glamour.
Signing Messi, though, would trump them all.
"As a fan, when something like this happens you say, Who says he won’t come here?," Cocina said.
"Diego was a Boca fan and he came to Newell’s. When you look at Messi it’s more likely (he’ll come here) because of his heart."
(Reporting by Andrew Downie in London and Ramiro Scandolo in Buenos Aires, editing by Ed Osmond)