IN PICTURES: Messi's star-studded wedding

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Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi and his wife Antonela Roccuzzo kiss as they pose at their wedding in Rosario, Argentina, June 30, 2017.

ROSARIO, Argentina – Footballers and celebrities including pop singer Shakira gathered on Friday for the "wedding of the century" in Lionel Messi's Argentine hometown as the Barcelona superstar prepared to marry his childhood sweetheart Antonella Roccuzzo.

 

Shakira and her husband, Messi's teammate Gerard Pique, joined 260 guests including other footballers such as Messi's Barcelona strike partners Neymar and Luis Suarez.

Argentinean media called it the "wedding of the century" for Rosario, the gritty northern port city where Messi, 30, and his bride 29, met when the player was nine years old.

Argentine football star Lionel Messi and bride Antonella Roccuzzo pose for photographers just after their wedding at the City Centre Complex in Rosario, Santa Fe province, Argentina on June 30, 2017. (EITAN ABRAMOVICH / AFP)

Former Barca and current Chelsea star Cesc Fabregas was also expected, as well as Argentina and Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero.

Strictly private

The public relations company organising the event warned in a statement that the ceremony would be "strictly private".

Television crews and reporters gathered at the wedding venue hoping for a glimpse of the couple and their guests.

The party will be a respite for Messi from his legal woes. A Spanish court last month rejected his appeal against a conviction for tax fraud.

Brunette bride Roccuzzo, 29, wore a gown by Rosa Clara, a Spanish designer who has dressed actress Eva Longoria and Spain's Queen Letizia.

Former Barcelona's football player Xavi Hernandez and his wife pose on a red carpet upon arrival to attend Argentine football star Lionel Messi and Antonella Roccuzzo's wedding in Rosario, Santa Fe province, Argentina on June 30, 2017.(EITAN ABRAMOVICH / AFP)

Roast gizzards

The wedding took place at the City Center casino, which stands right next to a crime-ridden slum run by drug gangs.

The civil wedding ceremony and party were to take place inside the venue, and the guests were lodged there, too.

The feast was reportedly to feature Argentinean delicacies such as roast gizzards.

 

Uruguayan pop bands Rombai and Marama plus singer Karina, Aguero's wife, were the entertainers.

There were also rumors that there would be singing by Shakira, the Colombian diva famous for "Hips Don't Lie" and "Whenever, Wherever".

Shakira had recently denied rumours that she would miss the wedding due to a quarrel with Roccuzzo.

Cameroon soccer player Samuel Eto'o and his wife Georgette pose for photographers as they arrive at the wedding of Argentina soccer player Lionel Messi and Antonela Roccuzzo in Rosario, Argentina, June 30, 2017. (REUTERS / Marcos Brindicci)

Humble couple

Messi and Roccuzzo live in Barcelona where he plays, but still return regularly to Rosario for vacations.

He moved to Spain when he was 13 to join FC Barcelona, but kept in touch with Rocuzzo.

Messi has gone on to win the top Ballon d'Or award five times. He is widely regarded as the world's best footballer.

Read: 'Best ever' Messi turns tables on Madrid

But various old friends of the couple in their home city said the bride and groom were humble folk who had never forgotten where they came from.

"They are the love of each other's lives," Messi's childhood friend Diego Vallejos told AFP.

Instead of wedding presents, they have asked for donations to a children's charity.

Shakira poses with airport personnel upon arrival at Rosario's airport, Santa Fe Province, Argentina on June 30, 2017 to attend the wedding of Argentine football star and player of Spanish Barcelona, Lionel Messi, on Friday.(HO / AEROPUERTO ROSARIO / AFP)

Leo and Anto

The couple have reportedly spent the past two weeks in Rosario with family, but have kept out of sight of the reporters who have invaded the city.

Rumours circulated of bachelor and bachelorette parties, but the only evidence was a photo, posted by ex-Barca goalkeeper Jose Pinto, of Messi enjoying a barbecue with a few friends.

 

Some friends of Roccuzzo have shared pictures of her relaxing with relatives.

On the eve of the wedding, a festive atmosphere reigned in the Las Heras neighborhood where Messi grew up.

 

"We will celebrate," said Damian Lugoni, 27, a local sausage sandwich vendor."I wish good luck to Leo and Anto, who is just as simple and nice as him."

"We are all happy for them," said Lisandro Urteaga, an artist who was called in to paint a mural of Messi in the neighborhood for the occasion.

"Let him celebrate the way someone like him deserves. He is a real example as a human being -- although when he plays football he doesn't seem to be from this planet."

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