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  1. ITV Report

Pope Francis: Lionel Messi is a great footballer but he's not God

Pope to Messi: 'You're not God' Credit: AP

The Argentine footballer Lionel Messi may be seen as a divine being in the eyes of his biggest fans, but the Pope has warned against labelling him God.

The Pontiff was speaking to Spanish TV when he made the comments and said theoretically it is "sacrilege" to use the term to describe the Barcelona captain.

Pope Francis is said to be a keen football fan and a supporter of the Argentine football side San Lorenzo de Almagro.

Pope Francis said it was sacrilege for Lionel Messi to be called God. Credit: AP

The 82-year-old was speaking to host Jordi Evole on the 'Salvados' programme broadcast on Spanish television channel La Sexta.

The Pope said: "In theory it is sacrilege, you cannot say it, I don't believe. Do you believe you can?"

Evolve replied suggesting he did believe Messi was God.

Messi's fans sometimes refer to the star footballer as God. Credit: AP

Pope Francis replied with a chuckle: "I don’t.

"People can say he is God, just as they may say 'I adore you' but only God can be worshiped.

"Those are expressions from people. 'This is a God with the ball on the field' is a popular way for someone to express themselves.

"Of course, he is very good, but he isn’t God."

Messi celebrates scoring a goal for the Argentina national football team at the World Cup 2018. Credit: PA

Messi's fans worship him on the pitch and he is widely considered to be one of the greatest footballers of all time.

They often call the captain D10S, which is a combination of the Spanish word for God "dios" and the number 10 on his shirt.

The Pope and Messi met in 2013 when he travelled to the Vatican with the rest of the Argentina national football team.

Pope Francis was recently caught on camera refusing to let worshippers kiss his papal ring during a visit to an Italian pilgrimage site.

He was seen pulling his hand away at the last moment as people bent down to kiss his ring.

The head of the Catholic church later set the record straight, saying the reason was "very simple: hygiene".