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How using Lionel Messi's name saved Argentine abducted in Nigeria

Engineer held captive in Nigeria calmed abductors by using star footballer's name to prove he was from Argentina

Buenos Aires: An Argentine agricultural engineer abducted in Nigeria and held captive for three days in the west African country claimed using the name of his famous compatriot, footballer Lionel Messi, calmed his violent abductors.

Argentina's football star Lionel Messi. Pic/Getty Images
Argentina's football star Lionel Messi. Pic/Getty Images 

The 28-year-old said he owes his life to the star forward. Santiago Lopez Menendez had been working in the west African nation since last year, planting soya and corn crops close to Kontagora in the north-west of the country, reports Argentine website clarin.com on Sunday.

But he was kidnapped earlier this week and beaten violently by his captors, who hardly spoke any English and thought he was north American.

It was then in desperation that Menendez tried to tell them he was Argentine and he was eventually able to calm down his aggressors with repeated cries of "Messi, Messi, Messi".

Held captive for three days, the engineer was released after the company who employs him paid an undisclosed ransom to the kidnappers.

Back in Argentina, his brother Jorge said on Sunday, "Tell them I am grateful to Messi, he told me. Naming him is what saved me." Menendez is now safe and will return to his homeland.

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