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Diego Maradona: Argentina pays respects amid three days of national mourning

Thousands of fans in Argentina are paying their respects to Diego Maradona as part of three days of national mourning after he died aged 60 on Wednesday.

The body of the 1986 World Cup-winning captain was transferred to the Casa Rosada presidential palace in Buenos Aires, where he will remain until Saturday.

Early on Thursday, thousands were already forming a snaking line through the streets near the central Plaza de Mayo in the country's capital after a night of mourning and reminiscing.

Maradona's body lay in a coffin with the blue and white national flag and an Argentina soccer jersey with the number 10 that had been part of his nickname "D10S" - a play on "dios", the Spanish word for God.

His family members were among the crowd that gathered outside the Casa Rosada as his coffin was transferred from the ambulance.

"He was someone who touched the sky with his hands but never took his feet off the ground," President Alberto Fernandez said on Wednesday.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Argentina to mourn his passing, leaving flowers and messages at his childhood home in the outskirts of Buenos Aires and outside the stadium of Maradona's former club Boca Juniors.

In tribute to Maradona, Internacional lit their stadium up in the colours of the Argentine flag after their game with Boca Juniors was postponed following the news of his death.

Boca Juniors, where Maradona had two spells and finished his career, wrote "Eternal thanks. Eternal Diego." in a tribute to their former player.

Pope Francis, an Argentine and a football fan, remembered Maradona in his prayers, the Vatican said.

Maradona also played for Barcelona and Napoli, who are in talks to rename their San Paolo Stadium in his honour, combining its current title with his full iconic name.

A minute's silence took place before Wednesday's Champions League matches and the same will happen before all other European fixtures this week.

Bielsa: Maradona 'beauty' unmatched

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa paid tribute to countryman Maradona.

"He was for us, and will continue to be an idol," Bielsa said during his press conference before Saturday's Premier League game at Everton.

"Given the fact he is not with us anymore brings great sadness. We have lost an idol and it makes us feel weak.

"What really stood out was his relationship with the public. Everything he did as a footballer was of beauty, which cannot be matched."

Bielsa believes it is hard compare Maradona to the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano, Johan Cruyff and Pele - fellow greats from different generations.

"If you were to compare the great players, it's very difficult to come to a conclusion because you have to take into account so many factors," Bielsa said.

"It all comes down to the feeling that each player has left you at that time, he was part of your time and left you a certain feeling and you carry that with you.

"Something that makes me really sad is that players like Maradona and (Lionel) Messi, who showed individual brilliance through dribbling, they're versions of players that stop repeating themselves.

"For example, (Kylian) Mbappe is the best player in the world right now, but his art is not comparable to that of Maradona and Messi."

'Born as a pawn, dies as a king'

Maradona is remembered for scoring the famous 'Hand of God' goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals.

Four minutes later, he scored what has been described as the 'goal of the century' - collecting the ball in his own half before going on a mazy run past several opposition players before he rounded Peter Shilton to score.

As well as the World Cup triumph in 1986, when Argentina beat West Germany in the final, Maradona also led his country to the final of the Italia 90 tournament, and managed them in South Africa in 2010.

His international playing career ended after he failed a drugs test at the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

He was also banned from football in 1991 after testing positive for cocaine while playing for Italian side Napoli, where he won two Serie A titles during a successful seven-year spell.

Since his retirement from football on his 37th birthday, he continued to be plagued by problems, but South American football expert Tim Vickery says the sporting genius of the attacking midfielder will forever be his legacy.

"The Maradona of the 21st century will fade into history, will fade from the collective consciousness," Vickery told Sky Sports News.

"The Maradona that will be immortalised is the Maradona at the height of his powers in 1986."

Diego Maradona: In pictures

From his days at Boca Juniors, to Napoli and various World Cups, relive some amazing imagery from a quite extraordinary career.

Source: Sky Sports

 

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