Kazan mayor promises World Cup Messi mural to rival Ronaldo's

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The mayor of Kazan has promised Lionel Messi a mural to rival that of Cristiano Ronaldo if Argentina qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals.

A three-storey portrait of the Portugal captain was painted on the side of a building adjacent to the team's hotel during their stay in Kazan for the Confederations Cup.

The city mayor, Ilsur Metshin, has explained that local graffiti artists were invited to create the image in order to brighten up the view Ronaldo would have from his hotel room.

He has also assured that there will be plenty of space for similar art works for the stars of next year's showpiece event, including Messi.

Speaking at a news conference at the city hall, Metshin said: "You all know the story: I contacted all hotels. I asked where Ronaldo will live, I went in his room, looked out of his windows. We saw an old garage, other old buildings and walls. We found the owners of the building and he responded to our request, made the area beautiful. 

"I saw a three-storey monument to Soviet architecture. We couldn't demolish it in two weeks so we asked our graffiti guys. They painted Ronaldo's winking face on the building.

"Ronaldo will leave but, in future, when visitors choose their hotel, they'll choose the one where Ronaldo stayed.

"I promise you: each time a football star comes to Kazan, we have more than 10,000 big buildings and structures... It's a dream for us, a big celebration for the city. 

"So we would be happy to welcome Messi here, the English national team... We support the Russian national team but we would welcome any team in Kazan. There are enough walls for any star at the 2018 World Cup.

"If Argentina come to Kazan, Messi will get a graffiti. I will give it as a present. That's my promise."

Ronaldo's future remains the subject of speculation and Metshin would welcome the 32-year-old at Rubin Kazan, although he stressed that Russia's focus is on developing local talent.

Asked about Ronaldo joining the Russian Premier League side, he said: "Never say never. We'll give it a go!

"I think the correct policy is to grow your own Ronaldos. Our country is huge in terms of area and population, with talents to grow.

"We have work underway. It won't give immediate results but we have to be patient. It takes time."

Matches in Kazan have so far passed without incident despite some pre-tournament concern over levels of security and the threat of hooliganism.

It has been suggested that England fans in Russia could provoke unrest during the World Cup but Metshin is not worried.

"Nobody can be sure but in Kazan we did everything possible to prevent any unwanted actions from the fans," he said. "We are ready for any fans, including English fans.

"But I have to remind you: we had Liverpool in Kazan [in November 2015] and we know English fans can be polite and friendly. They can be energetic and vibrant but observe local laws at the same time.

"I have heard people speaking German, speaking English, which is great. This kind of event helps to promote Kazan as a tourist destination."