The sight of Lionel Messi is always a spectator's delight. And if the Argentina superstar is to be seen just hand-shaking distance away it is well worth the hour-and-a-half drive from Moscow to the tranquil setting of Syro Ezhkon Sports School training site.
Messi was chatting with coach Jorge Sampaoli in the ground when 150 odd reporters were admitted. The facility is an ideal place for a World Cup team to fully focus on being 'together for a dream', the credo emblazoned on the Argentine team bus.
Kun Aguero, Paulo Dybala, Angel di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain were engaged in target practice with the ball being delivered from both flanks. A few were spectacular goals, some went way over the crossbar and a couple out of the ground and into the lake. Mascherano fired in a spectacular volley.
Much to the disappointment of the onlookers, Messi did not kick the ball even once. It is important for the genius, who was sitting on the green top watching his teammates, to recuperate from a long and gruelling season with Barcelona before Argentina's opening game against Iceland on June 16. Sampaoli, meanwhile, had not gotten enough time to work with this team and it will be crucial that he find the perfect balance if Argentina are to go one step further than their final disappointment against Germany in Brazil 2014.
But he knows, as does the rest of the world, that success will depend heavily on the brilliance of Messi, who has so far failed to translate his club form to deeds with the national team.
A few Argentina fans, camped two kilometres away from the fortified facility, may not get the chance to see them before the opening game, but there was little cause for complaint.
“We will win the World Cup. I think Sampaoli is the number one man and Messi is second,” said Martha, who brought along her pet dog all the way from Argentina.