By Nick Mulvenney
KAZAN, Russia (Reuters)
Kazan artists worked through the night on Friday painting a mural of Argentina’s Lionel Messi to match one of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo on a building opposite, saving the blushes of the World Cup host city
The three-storey portrait of Ronaldo was painted on a building behind the Ramada Hotel to welcome the five-times World Player of the Year when Portugal played in the capital of Tatarstan in the 2017 Confederations Cup.
To the embarrassment of city officials, it turned out that Argentina would be staying at the same hotel ahead of Saturday’s World Cup last 16 clash against France with Messi potentially being able to see the Ronaldo mural from his room.
To avoid to appear to be taking sides in the eternal debate over which of the Spain-based forwards is the world’s best player, the city commissioned the smaller side profile of Messi.
Not that they were above trying to foster a bit of competition between the pair, with pictures taken from the hotel revealing the sentence “I scored 4 goals. Can you beat that. Leo?” newly-painted above the Ronaldo portrait.
Fans were already gathering outside the hotel hours before the arrival of Messi, also a five-times World Player of the Year, and his compatriots.
Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in Portugal’s opening group game against Spain and added another goal in their match against Morocco, while Messi got off the mark in the 2-0 win over Nigeria that secured Argentina’s place in the knockout stages.
(Editing by Christian Radnedge)