Tributes poured in for Argentina football legend Diego Maradona after he passed away at the age of 60 on Wednesday. He breathed his last in Tigre, Buenos Aires after suffering a cardio-respiratory attack.
“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,” wrote Pele on twitter.
Argentina and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi said “Diego is eternal”.
“A very sad day for all Argentines and football. He leaves us but does not leave, because Diego is eternal. I keep all the beautiful moments lived with him and I send my condolences to all his family and friends,” said Messi.
Portugal and Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo called Maradona an “eternal genius”.
“Today I bid farewell to a friend and the world bids farewell to an eternal genius. One of the best of all time. An unparalleled magician. He leaves too soon, but leaves a legacy without limits and a void that will never be filled. Rest in peace, ace. You will never be forgotten,” he tweeted.
Brazil and Paris St Germain forward Neymar shared a photo of a younger self with Maradona who is seen affectionately clutching him, on instagram – and called him a “legend of football”.
Former England striker Gary Lineker, who as a member of the England team tasted defeat at the hands of Argentina at a 1986 World Cup quarter-final match, was also effusive in praise. He said Maradona was “by some distance, the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time”.
“Thank dear Dieguito for your friendship, for your football, sublime, without comparison. Simply, the best football player in the history of football. So many enjoyable moments together. Impossible to say which one was the best. RIP my dear friend,” said former Argentina and Tottenham midfielder Ossie Ardiles.
Considered as one of the best footballers of all time, beside Brazilian legend Pele, Maradona had played 91 international matches for Argentina and netted 34 goals.
However, the footballer’s popularity went beyond the numbers. He is believed to have “single-handedly” won Argentina the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where he had also scored the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England.
At the club level, Maradona had reached the pinnacle of the sport at Napoli where he had won two Italian Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990. He was also a talismanic figure in Napoli’s Italian Cup winning teams in 1987 and the UEFA Cup in 1991.