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imageBUENOS AIRES: Ernesto Vecchio, the first coach of Lionel Messi when the budding superstar was a young rookie in Argentina, has died at the age of 65, the Newell's Old Boys club announced Friday.

"We regret to announce the death of Ernesto Vecchio, the technical director of Leo Messi during his debut (at Rosario)," said a statement on the Twitter account of Newell's where Vecchio worked for more than 30 years.

Vecchio, who divided his time between Newell's and working with the Messi Foundation charity, remained a staunch supporter of the Barcelona star even when he was widely criticised for announcing his international retirement following last year's Copa America defeat to Chile.

"This boy can no longer be criticised. He has the right to retire," Vecchio said.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Press), 2017

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