Diego Maradona, regarded by many as the greatest footballer of all time, has died just a few weeks after his 60th birthday.
Maradona, the midfield linchpin of the Argentina side that won the 1986 World Cup and former national team manager, had successful surgery to remove a blood clot on the brain in a Buenos Aires hospital earlier this month.
His personal physician Dr Leopoldo Luque said the early signs were “favourable”, but it has been reported that Maradona suffered a fatal heart attack at his home on Wednesday.
The Argentine Football Association (AFA) tweeted “its deepest sorrow for the death of our legend, Diego Armando Maradona”, adding: “You will always be in our hearts.”
Indisputably one of the finest players to grace the game, he is thought of by many as the best following a storied career, the highlight of which came when he captained Argentina to a second World Cup crown 34 years ago.
He also led the country to the final of the 1990 tournament in Italy and managed them in South Africa in 2010.
Argentina president Alberto Fernandez led the tributes to Maradona, tweeting: “You took us to the top of the world. You made us immensely happy. You were the greatest of them all.
“Thank you for having existed, Diego. We’re going to miss you all our lives.”
It is understood UEFA will hold a minute’s silence at all of Wednesday night’s Champions League matches in Maradona’s memory.
Maradona’s successes made him a global star and a national hero in Argentina but his career was also blighted by controversies on and off the field.
His ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the 1986 quarter-finals, when he pushed the ball into the net with his hand, earned him infamy – although he followed up by scoring the ‘goal of the century’, a remarkable solo effort, in the same game.
His international playing career ended in shame when he failed a drugs test at the 1994 World Cup in the United States and he was notorious for a wayward lifestyle. He was also banned from football in 1991 after testing positive for cocaine while playing for Napoli.
However, he remained a revered figure at the Italian club, where he won two Serie A titles. He also played for Barcelona, Sevilla, Boca Juniors and Newell’s Old Boys and was most recently manager of Gimnasia y Esgrima in La Plata, Argentina.
News of his death prompted an outpouring of eulogies. Pele, who alongside Maradona often tops polls for the accolade of greatest footballer of all time, wrote on his official Twitter account: “What sad news.
“I lost a great friend and the world lost a legend. There is still much to be said, but for now, may God give strength to family members. One day, I hope we can play ball together in the sky.”
Napoli said on the social networking site “there are no words to describe the pain we’re going through”, Barcelona added “thank you for everything, Diego” while Boca gave “eternal thanks” to their former player.
Former England striker Gary Lineker, who played in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina, said: “By some distance the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time.
“After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God. #RipDiego”
Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo said on Instagram: “Today I bid farewell to a friend and the world farewells to an eternal genius. One of the best ever, an unmatched magician. Leaves too soon but leaves a boundless legacy and a void that will never be filled. RIP. You will never be forgotten.”
Asif Kapadia, who directed the 2019 film Maradona, tweeted: “Can’t quite believe DM has gone. Hard to process.
“He always seemed indestructible. I had 10 hours with the man!! I touched his left foot. We did our best to show the world the man, the myth, the fighter he was. The greatest.”
The AFA said in a statement on its website: “Maradona was, is and will forever be a hero of our football.
“An emblem that knew how to bring the colours of the Argentine flag to every corner of the planet. Diego forever marked an era with his indescribable and unsurpassed talent. The soccer planet will remember you forever.
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