Sports News

Simeone and Valdano pay tribute to 'mythical' Maradona

MADRID (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone led the tributes from Spain to Diego Maradona following his death on Wednesday.

Simeone, who played with Maradona for Sevilla and the Argentina national team, said the World Cup winner had helped shape football in his country.

“When we were born, we grew up watching Diego as we started to play football. He was our guide as to what playing the game was,” Simeone said.

“A mythical figure leaves us, an Argentine who transmitted all of his rebellious streak to fight for positive and negative things, while always looking forwards. He transmitted so much to so many boys, and our footballing identity comes from watching him.

“At Sevilla he took me under his wing fantastically, and showed me what it meant to play for Argentina. I feel that he’ll always be with us.”

Maradona died after suffering a heart attack at his home in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, less than a month after his 60th birthday.

Jorge Valdano, who lined up alongside Maradona as Argentina won the 1986 World Cup, broke down in tears on Spanish television when talking about his friend and former team mate.

“It hurts a lot, both for the player and man he was. The memories I have, when I think of him bring a smile to my face,” an emotional Valdano said.

Writing in Thursday’s edition of national newspaper El Pais, Valdano spoke Maradona’s gifts and flaws.

“There is something perverse in a life that sees all of your dreams come true, and Diego suffered the generosity of his destiny like no one else.

“He was never happier than when he was on the pitch. It was there that he would have a date with the love of his life, the ball. But he also had a spectacular command of the stage, as if he didn’t feel part of a team but was on his own. Like a rock star driving the crowd wild rather than a football player.

“This week, even the ball – the most communal toy that exists – will feel more alone and will cry heartbroken for its master. All of those who love authentic football will cry with it for Maradona. And those of us who knew him personally will cry even more for that Diego who, in recent times, had almost disappeared under the weight of his legend and his excessive life. Adios, great captain.”

Reporting by Joseph Walker; Editing by Toby Davis