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Messi kit gives Pope a hat-trick of signed shirts

Many a football fan would like to get their hands on signed Lionel Messi kit but it was the pope who got lucky Wednesday when he received a personally autographed shirt from the Barcelona striker.

Four-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi, who like Pope Francis is Argentinian, sent his compatriot a shirt with the words "with much affection", the Vatican said.

It is already the third souvenir shirt given to the new pontiff, a known football fan and long-term follower of Buenos Aires club San Lorenzo, one of Argentina's top five clubs.

On Monday Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy presented the pope with the shirt of the Spanish national team, signed by all the players.

And after his inauguration last month, San Lorenzo sent the first Latin American pontiff a shirt emblazoned with the words "Pope Francis. Let us pray for him. Pray for us."

Francis's dedication to his team is such that he has been known to give a thumbs up sign to San Lorenzo supporters gathered in Rome's St Peter's Square.