BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – Diego Maradona, one of the greatest football players of all time, died on Wednesday at the age of 60, plunging his native Argentina and football fans around the world into mourning.
Renowned along with Pele as one of the finest players ever to grace the field, the Argentine World Cup-winning captain had undergone brain surgery this month and died of a heart attack, a member of his entourage told AFP.
Maradona will forever be remembered for his goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final in Mexico City, when he pushed the ball into the net.
Minutes later he swerved through the helpless English defenders for a superb second goal, capping a victory that perfectly encapsulated the mixture of brilliant skill and often outrageous behaviour that ran through his life.
He struggled with addiction and had been plagued by poor health in recent years.
Pele described Maradona as a “dear friend” and the 80-year-old Brazilian said he hoped they would “play together in the sky” one day.
Gary Lineker, who was in the England team defeated in 1986, said Maradona was “arguably the greatest of all time”.
Lionel Messi led the tributes from modern-day players to his fellow Argentine, saying, “He has left us but he will never leave us because Diego is eternal.”
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez announced three days of national mourning in the South American country.
Argentine media first reported on Wednesday that Maradona had suffered a serious setback in his bid to recover from the surgery earlier this month to remove a clot lodged between his brain and skull.
Family members were summoned to his home north of Buenos Aires before the announcement of his death was made.
Grieving fans later gathered at the Obelisk landmark in the centre of Buenos Aires and at Boca Juniors’ stadium, the Bombonera, where Maradona played from 1981-82 and 1995-97.
The life of the divine footballing talent that was Diego Armando Maradona was marked by wild highs and lows, with Argentina and club sides Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli.
Substance abuse had long taken their toll on the mercurial talent’s health.
Maradona was admitted to hospital three times in the last 20 years for serious health issues – two of which were potentially fatal – due to his addictions.