Europe 1 with AFP 17:17 p.m., March 28, 2023

Three months after winning the World Cup with Argentina, team star Lionel Messi was honored Monday night at Conmebol headquarters in Paraguay. A statue of the Paris Saint-Germain player was also inaugurated. The statue will sit alongside that of Diego Maradona and Pelé.

"It was time for a South American team to become world champions again," Argentine star Lionel Messi said Monday, particularly honored at a ceremony called "Night of the Stars" at the headquarters of Conmebol in Paraguay to pay tribute to the Argentina team crowned at the 2022 World Cup. Messi, who attended the unveiling of a statue in his image at the South American Football Association's Football Museum, alongside those of Pele and Diego Maradona, was widely acclaimed at the event.

"I'm delighted. That's what I was missing. I was able to achieve everything in football. I thank my teammates for this beautiful gift they gave me. Now I have to enjoy what I have left (as a footballer), whatever happens," said the 35-year-old striker, who has played in five World Cups. The Argentine singer Soledad Pastorutti dedicated to him the song "Brindis", the same one she had sung for Diego Maradona. The song was published by the PSG player on his social networks to share what he experienced during the World Cup in Qatar.

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Stick of the "guide to world football"

The artist descended from the stage to Messi's seat to take his hand and sing along with him. "It was very exciting. It's very strong. The fact that she is singing it to me now was a very pleasant moment," said the Argentine idol, to whom Alejandro Dominguez, president of Conmebol, presented a replica of the World Cup and a stick representing the "leader and guide of world football".

In a video created by artificial intelligence and released at the event, Pele and Maradona also spoke of Messi's exceptional talents. "Beyond all the affection we receive, we are not yet really aware of what it means to be world champion," explained "La Pulga".