Photos: Messi, Balotelli Meet Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Reigning World Footballer of the Year Lionel has had a VIP meeting at the with the first Latin American-born Pontiff of the Catholic Church, Francis.

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Lionel and Azurri Skipper Giggi Buffon at the .

Ahead of Wednesday night’s friendly match between Argentina and Italy in Rome, players from both sides enjoyed a private audience with the at the Apostolic Palace.

Controversial AC Milan and Azzuri striker, Mario , who has withdrawn from the friendly encounter after suffering a knee injury in training, was also present.

 

Mario Balotelli meets the Pope yesterday in Rome with the rest of the Italy squad

The told the players to remember they are not just role models on the pitch, but away from the pitch and as such should try to lead by a good example “for better or for worse.” We are yet to see if understands that.

The also urged the players to pray for him “on the playing field God put me on,” admitting sport has become a big business.

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Both Sides’ Players Welcomed the First Latin American Pontiff to a Rousing Ovation.

The friendly match has been scheduled for Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.

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