Great Britain

Diego Maradona was funny, flawed and brilliant – he had it all going on

EVERY football fan on the planet felt the ground shift beneath their feet when they heard this news.

Maradona was everything: brilliant, flawed, funny, tragic, loveable, dislikeable, admirable, pitiable, you name it — he had it all going on.

It was all there in the handball goal against England in Mexico in 1986.

We loathed him for that but, within minutes, we were all but giving the rascal a grudging standing ovation for a goal of genius.

And not long after that we had to smile through gritted teeth at the cheek of him giving the incident its name — the Hand of God.

It all felt like a grave sin, followed by the redemption of his wonder goal, to the nerve of the man then christening the whole business to his liking.

I only saw him in the flesh once. I was visiting a friend in Madrid in the early ’90s when the great man was playing for Sevilla.

They were the visiting team at the Bernabeu in Madrid so we had to be there.

'A COMPLETE AND UTTER STAR'

Sevilla took to the pitch to an enraged cacophony of whistles, which got all the louder as we clocked that there were only ten of them out there; the greatest footballer in the world was making us wait.

By the time he stepped on to the pitch the noise had risen to quite unbearable levels.

He walked incredibly slowly, taking all the time in the world to embrace the derision. What a star; what a complete and utter star.

Many years later I got to meet one of his teammates from that day, the Croatian striker Davor Suker.

By then Davor was also a superstar, but he was in no doubt about who was the best of the best. His face was wreathed in smiles at the memory of his Sevilla teammate.

The fans in Spain used to have sandwiches wrapped in foil at the games.

They’d take this foil, scrunch it into balls, and as Maradona made his way towards them to take corners these tin foil balls would rain down on him.

Davor hooted with delight as he recalled how Maradona would trap these little missiles and play brilliant keepy-up with them to enrage and entrance the fans all the more.

Everything he did, for good or ill, grabbed you by the scruff of the neck.

He even had a way of crying that was all his own, blubbing like a child you’d been wanting to tell off but now just couldn’t.

And now we all mourn his passing, giving thanks that we were living on planet football at the same time as it was graced by Diego Maradona.

Emotional Gary Lineker pays tribute to Diego Maradona

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