Diego Maradona dead – England stars pay tribute to World Cup nemesis and one of all-time greats as he dies at 60

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DIEGO Maradona was shaking the Hand of God last night as the football world mourned one of its greatest.

Argentina’s World Cup-winning skipper, 60, died of a heart attack at home weeks after brain surgery.

⚠ Read our Diego Maradona death live blog for the latest news & updates

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Diego Maradona died of a heart attack aged 60[/caption]

PA:Press Association

The football legend will forever be remembered for his Hand of God goal in 1986[/caption]

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Gary Lineker was among his ex-England rivals to lead the tributes[/caption]

Empics

Paul Gascoigne, who played against Maradona in Italy, said ‘it’s such sad news for everyone in sport’[/caption]

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Fans got a glimpse of what might have been when Kevin Keegan swapped tops with Maradona in 1980[/caption]

He became a hate figure for his Hand of God goal in 1986 but will be remembered as one of the greatest to play the game.

Former England star Gary Mabbutt said Maradona would have been a favourite in a Three Lions shirt.

Fans got a tantalising glimpse of what might have been when Maradona, then 19, swapped tops with Kevin Keegan after a 3-1 England win at Wembley in 1980.

Mabbutt, 59, told The Sun: “He was one of the greatest of all time.

“When Argentina won the World Cup with him as captain in 1986… it’s impossible to do it single-handedly but he was just exemplary.

“He would have been an asset to the English side.”

Mabbutt was once Maradona’s teammate in a benefit match for Argentina and Spurs hero Ossie Ardiles, and said: “He was incredible. Even in the dressing room, the tricks he was doing . . his ability in the game was greatly admired.”

Last night Argentine president Alberto Fernandez posted a photo of him embracing Maradona, 60, and said: “You took us to the top of the world. You made us immensely happy. You were the greatest of all.

“Thank you Diego. We’re going to miss you forever.”

AFP or licensors

Maradona died just weeks after undergoing brain surgery[/caption]

EPA

He suffered a long battle with his health, forcing him to make numerous trips to hospital in recent months[/caption]

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He was taken ill at the home of his former wife Claudia Villafañe[/caption]

The midfield genius was taken ill at the home of one of his two daughters and former wife Claudia in Tigre, just north of the capital Buenos Aires.

Maradona went back to bed after breakfast, having told his nephew Johnny Esposito: “I don’t feel well.” They were to be his final words.

A nurse at the property raised the alarm after discovering he had suffered a suspected heart attack.

But he was already beyond hope when medics arrived.

His death has sparked three days of mourning with a huge funeral likely next week.

A brilliant No10 who starred for Napoli, Barcelona and Argentina in the ’80s and ’90s, Maradona was famed for his mazy dribbling.

In the 1986 World Cup quarter- final he punched the ball past England goalie Peter Shilton.

The foul was missed by match officials and a goal awarded in the days well before VAR.

Minutes later, with England fans cursing his cheating, he dribbled 60 yards to net a second, later voted goal of the century.

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In the 1986 World Cup quarter-final he famously punched the ball past Peter Shilton[/caption]

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That year, Argentina won the World Cup with him as captain[/caption]

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He won 91 caps for Argentina, scored 34 goals and played in four World Cups[/caption]

But Maradona’s career was also blighted by drink and cocaine abuse which triggered wild behaviour and serious health problems.

Gary Lineker, 59, who scored for England in the 1-2 Hand of God defeat, tweeted: “By some distance the best player of my generation, arguably the greatest of all time.

“After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God.”

Paul Gascoigne, who played against Maradona in Italy, said: “It’s such sad news for everyone in sport. What a talent.”

Former foe Shilton said this summer: “He may have been the greatest player ever but I didn’t respect him one bit.

After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God.


Gary Lineker

“Especially because he never apologised faor cheating. He felt that he didn’t have to apologise, so that was that.

“It is sad that despite winning 125 caps for England, that moment is what I am most remembered for.”

Maradona was pictured with his surgeon Dr Leopoldo Luque when he left hospital on November 11 — eight days after being admitted with a blood clot on the brain.

The ailing legend, overweight and a sad shadow of the swaggering star of his heyday, still attracted crowds of fans as was driven from the private Olivos Clinic.

Nine ambulances rushed him to the gated family residence so the star could recuperate amid Argentina’s Covid lockdown.

Ace's 'sorry' for the goal

By Tom Wells

I SHOOK the Hand of God in January 2008 in an extraordinary interview in which he apologised for the infamous goal.

Speaking through a translator, Maradona told me of his life, football and drugs battle.

On the Hand of God goal he said: “If I could apologise and go back and change history I would do. But the goal is still a goal. Argentina became world champions and I was the best player in the world. I cannot change history.”

He said he had contemplated suicide due to his battles with cocaine.

AP:Associated Press

Maradona presented a national team to Argentina’s Pope Francis in 2014[/caption]

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Brazil legend Pele said ‘I have lost a dear friend, and the world has lost a legend’[/caption]

AFP – Getty

Gary Mabbutt said Maradona would have been a favourite in a Three Lions shirt[/caption]

AP:Associated Press

Lionel Messi said it was ‘a very sad day for all Argentines and football’[/caption]

Usain Bolt posted a tribute online, writing ‘RIP to legend Maradona’

Lawyer Matias Morlahas had said Maradona would continue to receive treatment for alcohol dependency following his hospital release.

The star was still coach of Argenitina’s Gimnasia y Esgrima club despite a string of recent hospital admissions.

He claimed to have kicked his cocaine addiction which dogged his glory days in the 1980s and almost killed him in 2000.

He was also famed for his partying and womanising.

He had a secret love child Diego Jnr while at Napoli who he refused to acknowledge until 2003 — the year before his divorce from long-suffering wife Claudia Villafañe.

His weight ballooned after he stopped playing thanks to his wild lifestyle forcing him to have a gastric bypass operation to lose weight in 2005.

He was later hospitalised for alcohol-induced hepatitis and collapsed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia — where he was seen making manic obscene gestures on TV.

A video also emerged of him drinking tequila on a plane, and in which he laughed he “drank all the wine” ahead of Argentina’s win over Nigeria.

But it was the diminutive, left-footed star’s silky skills and mesmeric talent for which he was best remembered.

He was the first player in football history to set the world record transfer fee twice — first with a £5million move to Barcelona, then a £6.9million to move to Napoli.

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Fans took to the streets to pay their respects to the sporting icon[/caption]

AP:Associated Press

In one of his final interviews, Maradona said ‘I am eternally grateful to the people, every day they surprise me’[/caption]

He also played for Spanish club Sevilla plus Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors and Newell’s Old Boys in his homeland.

His greatest silverware hauls came with Napoli and Barcelona, which were preceded by chaotic exits.

He won 91 caps for Argentina, scored 34 goals and played in four World Cups, captaining his side to a 1986 final triumph over West Germany in Mexico.

Soccer gave me everything I have, more than I ever imagined.


Diego Maradona

He also played in the 1990 final won by the Germans.

On his 60th birthday on October 30, Maradona spoke of his concern that fans would continue to love and support him.

He said: “I am eternally grateful to the people. Every day they surprise me, what I experienced in this return to Argentine football I will never forget.

“I was out for a long time and sometimes one wonders if people will still love me, if they will continue to feel the same.”

The icon also rued his addictions which robbed him of the chance to be an even better player.

He said: “Soccer gave me everything I have, more than I ever imagined and if I hadn’t had that addiction, I could have played a lot more. But that is past, I am fine and what I regret the most is not having my parents.”

Maradona told how he missed his late mum Dalma, and of his hope that she was still looking down on him with pride.

The Sun says

CHEAT? Genius? Maradona was certainly both in that infamous 1986 World Cup tie.

But he should mainly be remembered as the latter — a staggering, if flawed, talent who inspired millions of kids.

We have to hand you that, Diego.


He said: “I always make that wish, one more day with my mother but I know that from heaven she is proud of me and that she was very happy.’’

Maradona’s brother-in-law died of Covid and his sister battled the virus.

Asked what his ideal 60th birthday present would be in his final interview he said: “My wish is that this pandemic passes as soon as possible and that my Argentina can move forward.”

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