Diego Maradona dies: A God, a King – Reid pays tribute to football royalty

By Sacha Pisani 26 November 2020 12
Diego Maradona dies: A God, a King – Reid pays tribute to football royalty

From the slums of Buenos Aires to the face of football. Former England midfielder Peter Reid hailed Diego Maradona following his death.

Maradona – arguably football's greatest ever player – died at the age of 60 after a suspected heart attack, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) confirmed on Wednesday.

Argentina and Napoli great Maradona was discharged from hospital a fortnight ago following brain surgery, having undergone a routine operation for a subdural haematoma after the World Cup winner was admitted to hospital due to concerns over anaemia and dehydration.

Reid came up against Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata head coach Maradona on the international stage and he told Stats Perform News: "He is like, in Argentina and Napoli – Naples – he is like God. He is like the King, royalty and that's Diego Maradona.

Englishman Reid also recalled Maradona's infamous 'Hand of God' goal and his stunner against England at the 1986 World Cup.

Hailed by many as the greatest goal of all time, Maradona picked up the ball inside his own half and dribbled past four England players before calmly rounding Peter Shilton in the quarter-final clash – Reid one of the players left behind during the mesmerising run.

The moment of magic arrived four minutes after Maradona handled the ball and scored as Argentina eventually went on to claim the World Cup 34 years ago in Mexico.

"Well, he cheated, he cheated in the first goal," Reid said. "The second was an artist at work, at the best of his ability. I got to talk to him – through an interpreter – on a couple of occasions. He was a very warm human being and I think his legacy – I think he was a flawed character, I think his drug abuse was well known and that might have caught up with him.

"But, I tend to go on the positives, on what he did on the football pitch; and what he did for the nation; and what he did for the likes of Napoli and Boca Juniors. I mean, you watch a game for Boca Juniors and there's still flags for him and there's flags in Naples about him. I mean the legacy is magnificent. So yeah, a flawed character, but was that because he didn't get any privacy?

"Don't forget he was born in the slums of Buenos Aires and he made his way up to the pinnacle of his career. You've got to give him all the credit in the world for that. Yeah, we are all human beings and we have all got faults. I tend to look at his plus points, which is [that] he was one of the greatest players to ever walk the planet."

Maradona, who went on to coach his country at the 2010 World Cup, had been hospitalised just days after turning 60.

He appeared in a fragile state when he briefly made an appearance as his Gimnasia side played a match on the evening of his birthday last month.

Maradona won 91 caps for Argentina between 1977 and 1994, scoring 34 goals at international level.

He started his career with Argentinos Juniors before joining Boca Juniors and went on to play for Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell's Old Boys before returning to Boca in 1995.

Maradona had the best years of his club career in Italy, playing a massive part in Napoli winning the Serie A title in the 1986-87 and 1989-90 seasons.

Playmaker Maradona also lifted the UEFA Cup with Napoli in 1989 and he won three trophies during his time at Barca – including the Copa del Rey in 1983.

Maradona also had stints in charge of Textil Mandiyu, Racing Club, Al-Wasl, Fujairah and Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico before being appointed by Gimnasia last year.

"At Barcelona I think injuries hindered him," Reid added. "But when he went to Napoli, 'wow'. I mean, if you go to Napoli, he is like – is it fair to say God? He is like a God there. I mean I know it is a ridiculous statement, but he is!

"And the other thing, I went to Argentina an awful lot watching football when I was a manager and a coach in Buenos Aires. And if you ask 99.9 per cent of Argentinians who the best player ever was, they will say Diego Maradona. Now why I am saying that is because of Lionel Messi who, let's have it right, is unbelievable. But, am I going to argue with Argentinians? No, no."

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Sacha Pisani