Little did Antonela Roccuzzo know that when she met a young boy who dreamed of being of being a footballer when she was just five, that she would be cheering on the best player on the planet in today’s World Cup final.
Neither did she have any idea that she would go on to become the brains behind Lionel Messi’s billion-dollar brand which eclipses all others, including David and Victoria Beckham and even long-term rival Cristiano Ronaldo and his fiancee Georgina Rodriguez.
Nor that, on the way, she would become possibly the most famous woman in South America. Today she’s a philanthropist, a multi-millionaire influencer, a children’s fashion label owner and an animal lover.
She is also a dentist, though she gave that up to be at the Argentina striker’s side as he started his journey via Barcelona and now Paris Saint-Germain to become the world’s richest and finest footballer.
Lionel Messi and his wife Antonela Roccuzzo first met when they were just five and now have three children and have build a million-dollar brand together
The woman who stole Messi’s heart is now possibly the most famous woman in South America. Today she’s a philanthropist, a multi-millionaire influencer, a children’s fashion label owner and an animal lover
Almost 30 years after she first came face to face with Messi, Antonela – mother to the superstar’s three sons – will be hoping the 35-year-old can lead Argentina to victory over defending champions France in Qatar today.
It would seal the perfect ending to his glorious career, securing him the one honour left to him in the game. Those who know Antonela, 34, say that she is ‘humble, modest and enjoys nothing more than to be at home with her boys and her two beloved dogs’.
There are, of course, several homes. They include a £10million mansion just outside Barcelona with views of both the beautiful Catalan hills and the Mediterranean coast.
There are others in Ibiza, Miami, and their home town of Rosario in Argentina. There they have a house called The Fortress with 25 rooms, including a playroom for sons Thiago, Mateo and Ciro.
It is, according to friends, where the Messis plan to retire. And that would take the handsome couple full circle back to when they met in 1993, when their fairy-tale romance began.
Messi and his wife own several homes. They include a £10million mansion just outside Barcelona with views of both the beautiful Catalan hills and the Mediterranean coast
Messi looks towards the sea of blue supporting his team (above) during the semi-final in Qatar where his wife was cheering on the best player on the planet in today’s World Cup final
Because their love story, particularly compared with those of most footballers who tend to meet their WAGs in gaudy nightclubs or on social media, is just that.
Antonela is the cousin of Messi’s 30 31 childhood friend Lucas Scagilia.
Back in the early Nineties, when the footballer-to-be first laid eyes on her, he asked: ‘Who is she?’ ‘Antonela, my cousin,’ replied Scagilia.
According to Scagilia’s father, Messi ‘could not look away from her for a second’. She visited the neighbourhood for two days, and Messi immediately knew he wanted to be with her for ever.
Whenever she stayed at Scagilia’s house, Messi would find an excuse to visit in the hope that he could catch a glimpse of her.
Often, this would be at weekends. He would write her love letters and told her that when they both grew up she would be his girlfriend.
They remained in contact, with Antonela going to watch Messi and her cousin play for the Newell’s Old Boys club in their younger days.
As his career blossomed, Messi moved to Barcelona when he was 13 but the pair remained in contact.
Five years later, tragedy bought them back together. Antonela was devastated when her best friend Ursula Notz died in a car accident. Messi was so concerned about his childhood crush that he flew back to Argentina to comfort her.
They realised then that they wanted to be boyfriend and girlfriend. Still, there were thousands of miles between them because ambitious Antonela, then 18, didn’t want to be an archetypal WAG.
She went off to get a degree in humanities and social sciences from the National University of Rosario, and then started postgraduate studies in dentistry. But love eventually won out.
Antonela made the heart-wrenching decision to cut short her career and move to Barcelona two years after their relationship became known.
On the football chat show Hat Trick Barca on the Catalan channel TV3 in January 2009, Messi was asked if he was in a relationship.
He replied: ‘Yes, I have a girlfriend. She is in Argentina. The truth is that I am well and I am relaxed.’
Just a few months later the couple went public during a carnival in Sitges after the big BarcelonaEspanyol local derby.
In 2012, Thiago was born, followed by Mateo in 2015. And in 2017 – 25 years after their first meeting – Antonela finally became Mrs Messi when they tied the knot at a luxury hotel in their home town of Rosario.
It was described as Argentina’s ‘wedding of the century’ and boasted a guest list of 260 people including footballers Neymar, Luis Suárez and Gerard Piqué, who arrived in Rosario in a private jet with his then partner, Colombian pop star Shakira.
The bride wore a dress by Rosa Clara, a Barcelonabased designer who has dressed actress Eva Longoria and Spain’s Queen Letizia.
A year later the couple had another son, Ciro. Their clan also includes two dogs, a French mastiff named Señor Hulk and a more timid cockapoo named Abu.
Messi says of his wife: ‘She has many good qualities: how she gets by on a daily basis; her personality, she is always in a good mood, and she always faces up to problems in an admirable way.
‘She is a very intelligent person who is great in all aspects of life.’
Despite her wealth, Antonela does not spend her days shopping for designer clothing.
She volunteered at the SJD hospital in Barcelona in the summer.
The couple also gave the leftovers from their wedding to the Rosario food bank. While her husband rakes in £94million over three years playing for Paris Saint-Germain, Antonela makes her own millions as a social media influencer.
Businesses are falling over themselves to sign her up to plug their products in return for a huge pay cheque.
They include Alo yoga clothing, Dolce & Gabbana, Guerlain, Dior and Louis Vuitton.
But this afternoon, when Messi lines up at the Lusail Stadium in Doha, their billion-dollar bank balance will pale into insignificance as he plays to fulfil another childhood dream – to lift the most sought-after trophy in world football