MEXICO CITY (AP) — On the soccer field, he was considered as a genius. Outside, he was a character known practically everywhere, by everybody.
Diego Maradona, who died Wednesday of a heart attack at age 60, started his story as a player in the Villa Fiorito neighborhood in Buenos Aires and over the decades he became a soccer great.
He debuted with Argentinos Juniors and then jumped to the mythical Boca Juniors, where in 1981 he got his first title as a professional soccer player. Then, it was off to Europe, and his legend began.
He won three titles with the Barcelona club, becoming a world soccer figure. But Maradona won a place as one of the all-time greats when he led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title in Mexico, where he scored one of the most storied goals in soccer history — the “Hand of God” goal that helped defeat England in a quarterfinal match.
Pundits have debated about who was the best soccer player in history — whether Maradona or Pelé, the iconic Brazilian who retired in 1977 and is still alive. There has been no consensus.
Maradona and Pelé had a very good relationship until the Argentine failed a doping test and was expelled from the 1994 World Cup in the United States. Pelé criticized him and they parted ways until 2005, when they re-established a relationship.
Maradona retired in 1997, but he remained linked to soccer. He was Argentina’s team coach.
Off the field, Maradona was an outspoken personality who leaned to leftist ideology. He was a good friend of Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban revolution, and was also close to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.