Lionel Messi was greeted to a heroes reception as he returned to his home in Rosario after leading Argentina to World Cup glory.
The 35-year-old returned to his home city for the first time since lifting the World Cup on Sunday, after he was earlier forced to evacuate his side’s winners’ parade earlier in the day, over safety concerns.
Following the parade, Messi was flown back by helicopter from Buenos Aires to Rosario – some 185 miles away – before he was pictured in a car driven by his wife Antonella Roccuzzo, as they headed home.
Upon his arrival, Messi was greeted by hundreds of cheering fans chanting ‘Dale Campeon’ translating to ‘Let’s go champion’.
The jubilant fans had been pushed to two sides by security to clear space for his wife to drive the car through the middle and inside a building.
Messi was born in Rosario and also started his football career playing for Newell’s Old Boys based in the city.
Messi and his family relocated to Barcelona in 2001 when he was 13-years-old and it was at the Spanish club he made his name as one of the greatest players in the world.
The star, now at Paris Saint-Germain, still regularly travels back to Rosario and his home which is on a private estate called Kentucky in Funes.
The monster property, built on three adjoining plots of land in a gated private estate on the outskirts of the footballer’s home city of Rosario, has a huge cinema, gym and underground garage with enough space for 15 cars.
It was a special moment for the people of Argentina, and especially in Rosario who had been longing for Messi to follow in the footsteps of Diego Maradona, and deliver their first World Cup since 1986.
Argentina’s World Cup-winning heroes had to be evacuated onto helicopters after their homecoming parade in Buenos Aires was cut short due to safety fears.
Lionel Messi and Co received a hero’s welcome from more than four million adoring fans at a parade held to celebrate their victory over France in the final.
But when it became clear people were jumping from bridges to land themselves on top of the bus and others on the ground making it impossible for the bus to continue on route, the parade was swiftly abandoned.
One video which emerged on social media showed a man hanging off a bridge before jumping onto the top deck of the bus, despite many of the players shaking their fingers urging him not to do so.
Lionel Scaloni and his players touched down in the early hours of Tuesday morning but by 4pm in the afternoon, with more than four million people out on the streets celebrating, the bus parade was shelved.
President of the Argentinian Football Association, Chiqui Tapia, wrote on Twitter: ‘They won’t allow us to greet everyone who was at the Obelisk.
‘The security organisations that were escorting us won’t let us continue. I apologise in the name of all the players. A real shame.’
The bus had been slowly making its way towards the Obelisk monument in the centre of Buenos Aires, in the Plaza de la República.
But the government intervened and on safety grounds urged Messi and Co to take to the skies in helicopters to complete their journey.
Following news of the scrapped finale to the bus parade, the mood among spectators briefly turned ugly, with reports of missiles being thrown at police.
Footage also surfaced on social media of a group of fans hijacking a police car and partying on top of it near the Obelisk following the helicopter announcement.
Prior to the switch to the skies, some of the players donned bucket hats to shield from the sun while others chose to stick on some sunglasses and grab a beer as their open-top bus cruised through the crowded streets.
The official Twitter account of the Argentinian national team, who landed back in the country in the early hours of Tuesday morning from Qatar with the World Cup trophy, had earlier urged fans to be ‘peaceful’ during the parade due to the large crowds.
‘It is important that everyone can move calmly towards that area to enjoy this unforgettable moment with the world champions in peace,’ the account tweeted.
Photos of gathered fans saw them take over motorways and many of the city’s roads as millions upon millions came out to party.
Messi and Argentina had earlier returned as heroes as they were greeted by thousands of fans at Ezeiza International Airport after touching down in Buenos Aires.
Argentina led twice in the final through goals from Messi and Angel Di Maria but with just minutes remaining in extra time France won a penalty – which Kylian Mbappe duly dispatched to take the final to a shootout where Emiliano Martinez’s brilliance in goal saw the Argentines emerge victorious on Sunday.
The national team and the World Cup trophy, which they lifted for a third time Sunday, landed back in Argentina after a near 21-hour flight at around 2.20am local time Tuesday morning.
Talisman Messi emerged from the plane first and lifted the World Cup trophy triumphantly into the air as he and head coach Lionel Scaloni stepped on to the airplane steps to greet the waiting fans.
The PSG star, with his medal around his neck, could not keep the beaming smile off his face as he soaked up the homecoming.
Messi and his team-mates came close to being knocked off the back of their open-top bus shortly after arriving.
Video shows Messi and four team-mates including Leandro Paredes and Di Maria being forced to duck under an overhead power cable at the last second as they drove slowly through a sea of jubilant Argentinian fans.
Messi scored twice during the World Cup final at the Lusail Stadium, adding to his total haul of seven for the tournament as he finally clinched the one trophy that had so far evaded him throughout his sensational career.
Scaloni, who had burst into tears after Gonzalo Montiel slotted home the winning penalty, wrapped an arm around his captain as the pair waved to those greeting them on the tarmac.
As soon as the players disembarked their plane, they headed straight on to an open-top bus that had been waiting for them on the tarmac to take them to the Argentine Football Association’s headquarters.