Diego Maradona dead: Argentina icon 'inspired' Lionel Messi – 'Greatest there's ever been'


Diego Maradona, one of the all-time footballing greats, has tragically died at the age of 60. The Argentina icon almost single-handedly won his country the World Cup in 1986 and his illustrious career had a major impact on another one of the game’s best ever players, Lionel Messi.

Maradona had successful brain surgery earlier this month on a blood clot but has died after suffering a heart attack at his Buenos Aires home, his lawyer has said.

The former Argentina captain will forever be remembered for his exploits on the international stage in particular, racking up 91 caps and scoring 34 goals.

He won the Golden Ball at the 1986 World Cup and also contributed the most assists while sharing the Silver Shoe as England’s Gary Lineker won the Golden Shoe in Mexico.

At club level, the former attacking midfielder – who also managed Argentina – is best remembered for his seven-year spell with Napoli, with whom he won two Serie A titles, the Coppa Italia, the Supercoppa Italiana and the UEFA Cup.

His No 10 shirt at Napoli was retired in 2000 in light of his achievements in Naples, though he also battled off-field troubles during his stint in Italy.

Maradona also spent time at Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Sevilla and Newell’s Old Boys, winning the Copa del Rey, the Supercopa de Espana and Copa de la Liga with Barca.

And his success at the Nou Camp inspired compatriot Messi, the Barca captain – who like Maradona is in the conversation to be recognised as the single best footballer of all time – revealed bcak in 2015.

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“I never followed anyone in particular, although when I started to think for myself Diego [Maradona] had recently returned home,” Messi said five years ago.

“That was in 1993. He joined Newell’s Old Boys when he came back from Spain and was part of the national team that qualified for USA ’94.

“If anybody inspired me starting out, it was undoubtedly him.”

The two worked together while Maradona managed the Argentine national team between 2008 and 2010, though Messi and co were heavily beaten by Germany in the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals in South Africa.

On the pitch, though, Messi regards his countryman as the best player ever to step foot on a pitch.

In addition to winning the World Cup in 1986, Maradona inspired Argentina to the 1990 final in Italy, only for West Germany to beat them in the final.

And Messi said back in 2010: “Even if I played for a million years, I’d never come close to Maradona.

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“Not that I’d want to anyway. He’s the greatest there’s ever been.”

Maradona retired in 1997 after a second spell with Boca Juniors and suffered health problems after calling time on his career, being hospitalised for heart problems both in 2000 and 2004.

He also underwent gastric-bypass surgery in 2005 and before his death was set to be treated for alcohol dependency.

During his playing days, he was banned in 1991 after testing positive for cocaine and failed a drugs test at the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

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But his troubles off the field never detracted from his superhuman quality on it, with Messi’s former Argentina team-mate Carlos Tevez making clear his status in their homeland.

“Diego, for all Argentinians, is God. And he always will be. He helped me become what I am today,” Tevez said back in 2008.

The loss of the South American will be sorely felt but the memories of his achievements and the lasting impact they have had on the generations since will provide much-needed comfort not just to the country of Argentina and the likes of Messi and Tevez but the footballing world as a whole.





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