Extra Time: Messi given divine blessing

The Barcelona forward's newest follower comes in the form of the newly-appointed leader of the Catholic Church, who has been revealed to hold "fondness" for his fellow Argentine

When you think of Lionel Messi's achievements on a football pitch, his haul of titles with Barcelona and Ballon d'Or trophies spring to mind - but he has now been given the holy seal of approval.

The president of the Episcopal Conference and Archbishop of Tarragona, Jaume Pujol, expressed his delight at the election of Argentine cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who succeeded Benedict XVI as Pope Francis of the Catholic Church on Wednesday.

However, he also revealed the identity of the 25-year-old's latest fan - none other than the 266th papal appointment!

"It is a joy that the new Pope is a Latin American. [The Pope] is also fond of [Lionel] Messi," Pujol told TV3.

The admission comes just two days after Barca maintained a run of three successive 4-0 victories during papal conclaves.

Meanwhile, Inter captain Javier Zanetti - a devout Roman Catholic - spoke of the "emotional" experience in seeing his fellow compatriot take up the mantle of Pope.

"I must admit I feel very emotional right now. I think my whole country feels this way," he told his club's official website.

"I don't have the pleasure of knowing him personally, but he is someone that has lived in Buenos Aires. He's very humble and has always been very close to the people.

"Faith is very important in the world we live in and we will always be behind him. I had the pleasure of meeting Pope Benedict XVI and now I hope I can get the chance to meet the new Pope, who is also my compatriot.

"It'd be a very emotional thing for me and my family. I wish him all the best."