The hand-over of god: Pope Francis receives signed Lionel Messi shirt

Argentine Pope receives shirt from Barcelona star

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The Independent Football

Since his ordinantion, the Pope has made great play of eschewing the flashier robes of office.

But the Argentine clearly found the chance to own a shirt worn by his compatriot Lionel Messi too hard to resist.

The four-time Ballon d'Or winner - that's Messi, not the Pope - sent His Holiness a shirt with the words "with much affection", the Vatican said.

Like one of his predecessors, John Paul II, Pope Francis is a keen football fan. He supports Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo, one of Argentina's top five clubs, and has been known to give a thumbs up sign to San Lorenzo supporters gathered in Rome's St Peter's Square.

The club even sent him a shirt with the words "Pope Francis. Let us pray for him. Pray for us."

And last Monday he was given another football shirt, this time of the Spain national team, by Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. It was signed by all the players.