FIFA World Cup 2018: Argentina Hoping It's Lionel Messi's Year

FIFA World Cup 2018: Argentina Hoping It's Lionel Messi's Year

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"Russia is the last chance with Messi as the top star of the national team and the world," he says.

Lifelong friend and neighbour Diego Vallejos still lives in Rosario's Estado de Israel street. He remembers them hanging around together as kids.

"Leo was naughty, mischievous. In football, he was better than everyone." When it rained, and "when the streets around here were flooded we played with water up to our knees."

Like everyone in Rosario, Vallejo is hoping this will be Messi's year.

"What I want most is for Leo to win a World Cup, which will be his achievement. Argentina is going to have many more World Cups but I want this one to be his, " said Vallejos, who was born in 1986, the year Maradona came to greatness as a World Cup winner -- the stamp of greatness that still eludes Messi.

In the working class Las Heras neighbourhood, Messi's house stands empty now, its facade shabby.

On the street corner, a mural brings together several symbols of Argentina. There is Messi, fingers pointing to the sky in a typical goal celebration, Maradona, the Falkland Islands and the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

In 2000, the Messis were going through financial hardship. Three years earlier, endocrinologist Diego Schwarztein had detected a hormone deficiency and prescribed daily injections.

His father Jorge had lost his job as a metalworker, and the family were unable to pay for treatment...

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