Soccer-Argentina's Di Maria threatened by drug gangs in hometown, media say

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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -Argentina forward Angel Di Maria received a threat at his family home on the outskirts of Rosario, domestic media said, amid an intense wave of drug-related violence in the central city from which Lionel Messi also hails.

Monday's message, following a similar threat last year to Argentine captain Messi, came a week after Di Maria, now playing for Portuguese champions Benfica, said he would like to end his career at his boyhood club, Rosario Central.

"Tell your son Angel not to come back to Rosario because we will kill a family member," the message read, according to the news portal Infobae, which cited police sources.

"Not even Pullaro is going to save you," it added, referring to the provincial governor, Maximiliano Pullaro. "We don't leave paper notes. We leave bullets and dead people behind."

Media said the motivation for the threats remains unclear, however, with police unable to discard any potential lines of investigation.

Police did not immediately respond to a Reuters email seeking comment.

A car left a sign carrying the message addressed to the Di Maria family in front of the private neighborhood where the 36-year-old usually stays, media said.

Di Maria will start in Tuesday's friendly game against Costa Rica, Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni told reporters later on Monday.

"Di Maria knows that he has our full support for whatever he needs. The important thing is that he plays, that will relax him a little."

Rosario, one of the world's largest agro-port hubs, is awash in violence as drug-trafficking groups have been lured by its appeal, experts say, as an outlet for illegal drugs to be sent other countries.

Last year's threat to Messi followed an attack by unidentified gunmen on a supermarket owned by the family of his wife, Antonela Roccuzzo.

Last week, the Argentine government said it would send a bill to Congress to allow the armed forces to intervene in internal security operations to fight drug trafficking and crime in Rosario.

(Report by Maximilian Heath and Shifa Jahan; writing by Janina Nuno Rios; Edited by Costas Pitas and Clarence Fernandez)