BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Lionel Messi feels "proud" that Pope Francis is a fellow Argentine and wants to meet the new head of the Roman Catholic church.

The world's top footballer spoke Thursday for the first time in public about Pope Francis after training with the rest of the Argentina squad for Friday's World Cup qualifier against Venezuela in Buenos Aires.

"All Argentines are proud the Pope is from here," Messi said. "Obviously, one day I'd like to meet him."

Pope Francis is a former archbishop of Buenos Aires and life-long supporter of football club San Lorenzo, which is based in the Argentine capital. Messi, the four-time FIFA world player of the year, grew up as a fan of Newell's Old Boys, a team located in the city of Rosario.

Messi had congratulated the new Pope in a message on his Facebook account, but this was the first time he talked openly about former Cardinal Julio Bergolio.

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