Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi “could not even dream” of being admired as much as Diego Maradona was, says former Argentina international and teammate Osvaldo Ardiles.
Argentina has announced 3 days of national mourning after the legend soccer player died on Wednesday at the age of 60. A recipient of state funeral, the body of the footballer will lie in state at the Casa Rosada, the seat of the Argentina government, during that time.
“To be Diego Maradona was incredibly beautiful,” Ardiles told the BBC.
“But on the other hand, it was not easy at all. Right from a really early age, he was subject to the press all the time. He didn’t have a normal childhood, he never had normal teenage years.
“Everybody wanted to be with him, everybody wanted a piece of him, so it was incredibly difficult.”
Maradona, who represented the clubs including Napoli and Barcelona in Serie A and La Liga captained the Argentines when they clinched 1986 World Cup scoring the famous ‘Hand of God’ goal opposite England in the quarters. Ossie Ardiles, who formerly played for Tottenham Hotspur in Premier League and played alongside Diego at 1982 World Cup said he was revered as “a God” at home, in Naples and across the globe.
“He will be remembered as a genius in football,” he added. “You can see the extraordinary amount of interest that he generates.
“People like Ronaldo, or people like Messi, they couldn’t even dream of having this kind of admiration.
“That was the Maradona phenomenon – all the time.”
What happened to the legend of the game?
A post-mortem examination was due to take place on the footballer’s body on Wednesday after he passed away at about midday local time at his home in Tigre, near Buenos Aires. The former Argentinean attacking midfielder and national team manager earlier underwent a successful surgery on a brain blood clot in November and needed treatment and rehabilitation for the alcohol addiction.
Tributes paid to the Legend
One-minute silence was observed before Wednesdays’ UCL ties and same will happen before all other European matches scheduled during the current week. Both Ronaldo and Messi paid homage to the GOAT while Brazilian football great Pele said he hoped on day they would “play ball together in the sky”.
Former Barcelona and Current Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said the Argentine “made world football better”.
“There was a banner in Argentina, one year ago, that I read that said: ‘No matter what you have done with your life, Diego, it matters what you do for our lives,'” former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola added.
“It expresses perfectly what this guy gave us. The man of joy and pleasure and his commitment for world football.”
Former Spurs manager and Argentine international Mauricio Pochettino said: “Broken with pain. Diego, you were my hero and friend. I was so fortunate to have shared football and life with you.”
Vatican in a statement said Pope Francis, an Argentine and a football lover, would be remembering Maradona in his prayers.
David Beckham took to social media to pay respects to the King of Naples:
“A sad day for Argentina and a sad day for football as we celebrate the greatness of what this man gave us… Someone that played with passion, spirit and was nothing less than a pure genius. I was so excited to meet Diego and we will all miss him. Rest In Peace.
A statement issued by Napoli said: “Everyone is waiting for our words but what words could we possibly use for a pain such as this that we are going through?
“Now is the moment for tears. Then there will be the moment for words.
“We are in mourning. We feel like a boxer who has been knocked out. We are in shock. A devastating blow for both city and club.”
A day of mourning will be observed in Naples on Thursday. The mayor of the city, Luigi de Magistris has proposed naming Stadio San Paolo after its former star.
Talking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Paul Elliott, who had represented Pisa, said: “I have to say it was remarkable. There was a sublime talent that this man had, an aura, a presence, and you know when you feel a sense of energy.
“Napoli is a very poor part of the south of Italy, but their whole world was built around Maradona and Napoli.
“If you look at where the club was when he arrived, the impact of one man unequivocally was the key and the catalyst to the success that they had, and the way he just gave everybody hope.
“That was just by his remarkable, sublime talent.”