Diego Maradona certainly left his mark on the sport that he loved.

The majestic Argentinian passed away at his home aged 60 sparking an outpouring of tributes from the world of football.

Reacting to Maradona’s death on BT Sport ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Atalanta, former England striker Peter Crouch said: “The biggest compliment you can pay him is he inspired so many great players that we see today.

“He was the first maverick who inspired so many.”

Over the years, some of the biggest superstars to grace a football pitch have outlined the impact of Maradona and how he inspired their early experiences of the sport.

From Lionel Messi and Zinedine Zidane to Eric Cantona and Ronaldinho, here are some of the icons who Maradona helped shape with his glittering career.

Diego Maradona inspired a generation of football stars

Zinedine Zidane

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has been open in discussing the influence of Maradona.

“He left his mark on me, on my mind, especially in 1986 because he was sensational at that time,” he said.

“It’s really at that moment that I became aware of the player he was, making differences as he did.

“He won games single-handedly. That’s the extra thing he had over the other players. In 1986, he was on another level.”


As a Brazilian, Ronaldinho would have perhaps been expected to idolise Pele - but it was fellow Barcelona icon Diego Maradona who caught the eye.

STAR-STUDDED: Maradona played alongside the likes of Ronaldinho for the match

“Diego Maradona was special. I always enjoyed watching him, including everything he did even before the matches,” he said.

“He was the most playful; the one I liked the most in that sense of playing with the ball. Maradona could dribble at speed towards the goal. He had such a different technique from everyone else.”

Rio Ferdinand

He might have been a defender - but it was attacking genius from Maradona that first saw Rio Ferdinand step onto a football pitch.

Speaking on BT Sport after his death, Ferdinand said: “He was the first, main reason why I started playing football. My first superhero.

Diego Maradona congratulates former Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand explained how Diego Maradona inspired him to get out and play football

“The reason why I went out on my estate, trying to replicate what he did at the World Cup, scoring that maze goal.

“He was just an artist, someone who brought magic to the screens and magic to your eyes so you thought, ‘wow, who is this guy?’

“What he did, even off the pitch, he was the first superstar, footballing rockstar. This was a world, world superstar and what a fabulous player.”

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi has had to live with comparisons with Maradona throughout his career.

And whilst they did not always see eye to eye when Maradona was manager of Argentina, Messi has acknowledged he can never match the icon.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have made tributes to Diego Maradona after his death aged 60
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have made tributes to Diego Maradona after his death aged 60

”Even if I played for a million years, I’d never come close to Maradona,” he said.

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

Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs dazzled with his dribbling at Manchester United - and his breakthrough came after growing up admiring Maradona.

Ryan Giggs grew up admiring Maradona

“The best of all time? Maradona,” he said. “I admired him in the World Cups of 1986 and 1990 and the arc of his career.

“Today there are so many strong players such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but the things I have seen Maradona do I have not ever seen anyone else achieve in football history.”

Fabio Cannavaro

Few lived and breathed the Maradona fanfare quite like Napoli fan Fabio Cannavaro.

Like his hero, he went on to lead his country to World Cup glory by guiding Italy to success in 2006.

Napoli fan Cannavaro also led his country to World Cup glory

Cannavaro said: “Maradona is a God to the people of Naples. Maradona changed history. In 80 years, we had always suffered, fighting against relegation, yet in seven seasons with him we won two leagues, a UEFA Cup, two Italian Cups.

“I’m a fan too and to live those years with Maradona was incredible. Being on the pitch when they won the Scudetto was amazing.”

Eric Cantona

Manchester United legend Eric Cantona himself had a maverick streak.

And it is not hard to see some influence from the man he regarded as the greatest of all-time.

Eric Cantona grew up idolising Diego Maradona and his achievements

Diego Maradona dies age 60

“Some say Pele was the greatest player of all time, but not me. Maradona will always be the greatest,” the Frenchman said.

“He won World Cup in 1986, narrowly lost in the final in 1990 and then in 1994 maybe would have won it again had he not been banned.

“The crucial difference with Pele is that Maradona wasn’t surrounded by great players; he had to carry the team himself. If you took Maradona out of Argentina they would not win the World Cup, but I think Brazil without Pele would still have won.”