Lionel Messi has paid tribute to Diego Maradona after the Argentine legend passed away aged 60 on Wednesday.
The Barcelona superstar is widely-considered as one of Maradona’s only rivals to the honour of the greatest footballer of all time and is similarly adored in his home country.
“A very sad day for all Argentines and for football,” he wrote on Instagram. “He leaves us but does not leave, because Diego is eternal.
Fellow all-time great Pele also paid his own tribute.
“What sad news. I lost a great friend and the world lost a legend,” he said. “There is still much to be said, but for now, may God give strength to family members. One day, I hope we can play football together in the sky.”
READ MORE: Pele leads tributes after death of Diego Maradona
Maradona’s death was confirmed by Argentina’s football association on Wednesday afternoon. He had been in hospital in Buenos Aires after surgery to remove a blood clot on the brain earlier this month.
He captained his country to World Cup glory in Mexico in 1986, and later led Napoli to two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990.
Argentina eliminated England from the 1986 finals at the quarter-final stage, as Maradona scored twice. The first was a blatant handball – ‘the Hand of God as Maradona described it – and the second a stunning solo effort.
Gary Lineker, who was playing for England that day, tweeted: “By some distance the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time.
“After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God. £RipDiego”
European football’s governing body Uefa held minute’s silences before all Wednesday night’s Champions League matches in tribute to Maradona.
Boca Juniors, where Maradona made his name before securing a then world-record transfer to Barcelona in 1982, tweeted: “Eternal thanks. Eternal Diego.”
Asif Kapadia, who directed the 2019 film Maradona, tweeted: “Can’t quite believe DM has gone. Hard to process.
“He always seemed indestructible. I had 10 hours with the man!! I touched his left foot. We did our best to show the world the man, the myth, the fighter he was. The greatest.”
Additional reporting by PA
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