Barcelona and Argentina superstar, Lionel Messi, has emerged as the unlikely savior of a kidnapped man in Nigeria. Santiago Lopez Menendez, 28, was working as an engineer on an agricultural project in Kontagora, a town in Northwest Niger State of Nigeria when he was captured on June 24.
The Argentinian was in Africa with the aim of helping local farmers plant soya and corn when gunmen arrived brandishing heavy weaponry before bundling him into the back of a van.
Menendez was subjected to three long days torture. He was denied food, water, rest and received regular savage beatings at the hands of his captors who spoke very little English.
Despite the language barrier, Menendez was able to recognise that his kidnappers had mistakenly labeled him as American and believed that was a reason for being mistreated and picked up novel way of communicating with the men.
In an attempt to save his own life, Santiago Menendez began repeating the word ‘Messi, Messi, Messi’ until they understood that he was Argentinian which, unbelievably, worked.
The beatings stopped and his treatment improved until his employers Four Mills paid the ransom and Menendez was released and flown back to his homeland.
“Thank you Messi, mentioning your name saved my life,” he told Clarin newspaper through his brother.