WORLD CUP-WINNING captain Lionel Messi came close to being knocked off the back of an open top bus moments after returning to Argentina.
Messi and four team-mates, including Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria, ducked under an overhead power cable with seconds to spare as they headed to the Argentine Football Association’s training ground.
Thousands of rapturous fans stayed up to greet the players after their plane touched down around 2am local time on Tuesday following a 19-hour journey home.
Footage of their near-miss with the cable showed Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodrigo de Paul spotting it at the last-minute and alerting his team-mates as he ducked down just in time.
On-loan Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Paredes was perched on the edge of the top deck of the bus but managed to keep his balance despite having to squirm away as it was almost on top of him.
He ducked down just in time but lost his baseball cap when the cable hit the top of his head and knocked it off.
Messi, clutching the World Cup from his high-up position in the middle of the group of five Argentinian players, took the scare in his stride and could be seen laughing off the shock.
An Argentinian journalist commenting on the scare said: “Paredes has just lost his cap. What a moment. Be careful boys.”
The Argentine government has declared today a national Bank Holiday to allow fans to take part in the celebrations which will see the players travelling to Buenos Aires’ famous Obelisk monument later with the World Cup.
More than a million fans congregated around the iconic monument after Argentina’s thrilling penalty shootout victory against France on Sunday.
A specially-prepared bus will take them from AFA’s training ground facilities to the Obelisk.
AFA confirmed in a tweet: “The world champion squad will head towards the Obelisk at midday to celebrate the World Cup triumph with fans.
“Yes….we are the World Champions.”
The tweet ended with a three stars emotion – to reflect the fact Argentina has now won the cup three times.
Many feared captain Messi would retire following the World Cup – win or lose.
However, the 35-year-old has confirmed he intends to keep on playing for his country after a trophy-laden year-and-a-half.
Argentina’s trophy haul started in the summer of 2021, where they won their first Copa America since 1993.
Messi had lost three finals in the tournament prior.
The Finalissima was then resurrected after 29 years.
It had only taken place two times prior in 1985 and 1993.
Argentina won the 1993 edition of the one-off final between the European and South American champions, beating Denmark 5-4 on penalties.
But in the summer of 2022, Argentina destroyed Italy 3-0 inside Wembley.
Messi then completed the set with a World Cup – a tournament he scored seven and assisted three in.
He is the second-most decorated player of ALL TIME with 42 trophies, trailing ex-Barcelona team-mate Dani Alves by one.
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