It's been just over three months since Lionel Messi led Argentina to glory in the 2022 World Cup final, but fans in the Paris Saint-Germain star's home country are still flocking in their droves to pay tribute to their hero whenever he returns.
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Messi needed assistance by police to reach his car after being besieged by adoring supporters outside a restaurant in Buenos Aires on Monday night.
The 35-year-old is back in Argentina ahead of Thursday's international friendly against Panama, the first game since the Albiceleste became world champions for the third time in Qatar.
Messi, who won the Golden Ball award as the tournament's best player after scoring seven goals including two in the final against France, landed on Monday morning in Buenos Aires with his wife Antonela Roccuzzo and his three children.
The forward trained with his international teammates before going with his family for dinner at a local restaurant, Don Julio, in the Buenos Aires district of Palermo.
Once news spread that Messi was inside, hundreds of fans gathered outside the restaurant hoping to catch a glimpse of the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner, and were chanting his name outside.
The scenes in Argentina outside a restaurant where Messi was having dinner at 🇦🇷— All About Argentina 🛎🇦🇷 (@AlbicelesteTalk) March 21, 2023
The crowd also burst into a spontaneous rendition of "Muchachos," which became the unofficial anthem of Argentina's World Cup success during the tournament.
Cuando Messi va a cenar a la esquina de tu casa: pic.twitter.com/6VV4nrHPdy— Andrés Lacouture (@AndresLacouture) March 21, 2023
According to La Nacion, Messi did not leave the restaurant until 1:45 a.m., once police arrived to calm the crowd.
He barely made it through the horde, with some reaching out to touch him or grab a selfie as the star was escorted by police and security to his vehicle, before he made his getaway in a grey Porsche.
Members of the crowd were seen celebrating and hugging each other after getting within touching distance of the Argentina captain.
UNA LOCURA LA CENA DE MESSI: Tocó llamar a muchos más policías de los que había para que pudiera salir y así se tuvo que subir al carro: pic.twitter.com/h3XRRxowuo— Andrés Lacouture (@AndresLacouture) March 21, 2023
Messi faced a similar situation when his car was mobbed after returning home to his native Rosario shortly after his World Cup triumph. He had previously taken part in a parade in Buenos Aires right after Argentina's World Cup victory, which had to be cut short amid safety concerns.
Thursday's game at Buenos Aires' Estadio Monumental quickly sold out after the Argentina Football Association received 1.5 million ticket requests.
Messi is two strikes shy of 100 international goals with Argentina, and has the chance to reach that milestone in the game against Panama on Thursday or against Curacao on Tuesday, March 28 before returning to France to help PSG fight for the Ligue 1 title.
He is third on the all-time list of leading men's international goal scorers behind Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, who achieved his century of goals in September 2020 and now has 118, and Iran's Ali Daei, who scored 109 before retiring in 2007.