Tributes are pouring in for the legendary footballer Diego Maradona, who has died at the age of 60.
Former England star Gary Lineker, who famously played against Maradona in the World Cup quarter-final in 1986, described his opponent as “the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time”.
Maradona’s infamous “hand of God” goal in that match led to Argentina progressing and ultimately winning the title, with the player widely credited as having hauled his team to victory, reports Sky Sports.
In a tweet paying tribute to the star, Lineker added: “After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God. #RipDiego.”
Brazilian footballer Pele, often hailed alongside Maradona as one of the greats, said it was sad to “lose friends this way”.
“Certainly one day we’ll kick a ball together in the sky above,” he added.
Another Brazilian footballing legend, Romario, wrote in an emotional tweet: “My friend is gone. Maradona, the legend!”
He said his friend “conquered the world” through his football but would also be remembered for his “joy and unique personality”.
Former teammate Osvaldo Ardiles, who also played for Argentinia’s national squad, shared a photo of the pair together in 1986.
In a sign of how loved Maradona was in his home country, Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez also paid tribute in a TV interview after it was announced three days of mourning would be held.
“I doubt that we will ever see another player like Maradona,” he said. “The best thing about Diego is that he was an absolutely genuine man, he was not a fake man, he was a genuine man who expressed everything with the force with which he played football.”
Sharing a photo of the pair together, Cristiano Ronaldo said: “Today I say goodbye to a friend and the world says goodbye to an eternal genius. One of the best ever. An unparalleled magician.”
Graeme Souness, who played against Maradona during his time in Italy with Sampdoria, told Sky Sports News that Maradona was “tiny but he was fearless”.
“There were players around at that time who were known to be over physical but he was an absolute warrior and ridiculously brave,” he said.
Souness added: “He is one of the greatest players to ever kick a ball and you were in the presence of greatness when you played against him.”
Italian club Napoli described its former star’s death as a “devastating blow”.
Maradona led the club to unprecedented success in the late 1980s and to this day is worshipped in the city.
Another of the star’s former clubs, Boca Juniors, tweeted in Spanish: “Eternas gracias. Eterno Diago,” which translates to “eternal thanks. Eternal Diego”.
Maradona, affectionately known to many as “Diego”, played at the working class Argentinian club before his debut in Europe.
The Argentine Football Association was one of the first to pay tribute to the star, saying it “expresses its deepest sorrow for the death of our legend”.
“You will always be in our hearts,” it said.
Olympic record holder Usain Bolt shared photos of the pair hugging and doing the sprinter’s famous pose, captioned with the simple message: “RIP to legend #Maradona.”
Sky Sports pundit and former Liverpool star Jamie Carragher said he would “never forget” watching Maradona at the World Cup in Mexico, adding he had “never seen anything like it on that stage since”.
In another emotional tribute, filmmaker Asif Kapadia said it was “hard to process” that Maradona has died.
Kapadia, who made a documentary on the footballers years in Naples, continued: “He always seemed indestructible. I had 10 hours with the man!! I touched his left foot.”
Also among those paying tribute was Pope Francis, with the Vatican saying he remembered the footballer with affection and was keeping him in his prayers.