Statue of Argentina and Barcelona star Messi cut in half

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A statue of Barcelona superstar and Argentina captain Lionel Messi in Buenos Aires has been cut in half.

The sculpture was part of the attempt to encourage Messi to return to the Argentina team having retired from international football following the Copa America Centenario final defeat to Chile in June.

The tribute in the Argentine capital has been vandalised, but repairs are already under way.

"The statue of Lionel Messi fell victim to an act of vandalism that left the footballer's sculpture without its top half," a statement from the Buenos Aires city government read.

"Its repair is now being worked on."

The statue is part of the Paseo de la Gloria on the shores of the Rio de la Plata, where several Argentine athletes including Gabriela Sabatini, Manu Ginobili and Juan Manuel Fangio are also honoured.