'Messi, we’re waiting for you': Gunmen threaten Argentina captain after shooting at in-laws' store

Gunmen fired a dozen shots at a Unico store, the supermarket chain owned by the family of Messi's wife, Antonella Roccuzzo. Credit: AP

Gunmen left a threatening message for Lionel Messi after they fired at a supermarket owned by his in-laws in Argentina.

The armed-attackers left a menacing handwritten note for the footballing superstar which read, “Messi, we’re waiting for you" in the early hours of Thursday.

Police said two men, on a motorcycle, fired at least a dozen shots into a Unico branch in Rosario, Argentina's third-largest city.

Messi has not yet commented.

Nobody was injured in the early morning attack, and it is unclear why the assailants targeted Messi or the Unico supermarket - the chain owned by the family of his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo.

Considered by many to the greatest football player of all time, Messi is revered in Argentina, especially since he led the national team to the country’s first World Cup victory in 36 years in Qatar in December.

Messi spends much of his time overseas playing for Paris Saint-Germain, but often visits Rosario, where he has a home in the suburb of Funes.

Police gather at a Unico store, the chain owned by soccer player Lionel Messi's in-laws, after it was shot at in Rosario, Argentina, Credit: AP

The French team posted a photo on social media of Messi training on Thursday morning.

The city's police force are reviewing security camera footage in the "preliminary" stages of the investigation, prosecutor Federico Rébola said.

It is the first time Messi’s in-laws have received this kind of threat, he added.

Celia Arena, justice minister for Santa Fe province, where Rosario is located, said the attack amounted to “terrorism” by a “mafia" group meant to intimidate the broader population.

“The aim is to deliberately cause terror in the population and discourage those of us who are fighting against criminal violence, knowing that it will be an event of global significance,” she wrote in a social media post.

The full handwritten note to Messi ended with the statement, "Javkin is also a drug trafficker, so he won’t take care of you".

The city’s mayor, Pablo Javkin, went to the supermarket and hit out at federal authorities over what he called their failure to curb a surge in drug-related violence in Rosario.

"I doubt everyone, even those who are supposed to protect us,” Mr Javkin said in an interview with a local radio station.

He said he recently had “very strong discussions” with members of the federal security forces over the past couple of weeks, demanding they crack down on the city's crime.

He said: “Where are the ones who need to take care of us?

“It’s clear that those who have the weapons and have the possibility of investigating the criminals aren’t doing it, and it’s very easy for any gang to carry out something like this.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.

The federal government's Security Minister Aníbal Fernández said drug-related violence was not a recent phenomenon in the city, and that Thursday's attack was typical of what has happened there “for the last 20 years.”

He said the incident was an example of how drug traffickers “have won” in Rosario, but now “we have to reverse that."

Opposition politicians blamed President Alberto Fernández’s administration for the continuing violence in Rosario.

His predecessor, Mauricio Macri, characterised the events as a warning that the country cannot “co-exist” with drug traffickers.

Lionel Messi. Credit: PA

Messi, 35, is currently renegotiating a contract with Paris Saint-Germain that ends this year amid speculation that the soccer superstar could decide to end his career playing for one of the local Rosario clubs, Newell's.

Messi, who this week won FIFA's best men's player award, could travel to Argentina later this month to join the national squad in playing two friendly matches.

One takes place March 23 against Panama in Buenos Aires, while the other one will be five days later against Curacao in the northern city of Santiago del Estero.