'God is dead': How the world's newspapers reacted to Diego Maradona's death

Chris Graham
·7-min read
The front pages of Marca, Liberation, and Corriere Dello Sport
The front pages of Marca, Liberation, and Corriere Dello Sport

Diego Maradona's divine reputation on the pitch - thanks to the infamous 1986 goal against England as well as his sublime skill - was the source of inspiration for newspaper headlines around the world on Thursday.

As the world mourned the death of one of the best footballers there has ever been, his face graced front pages  worldwide, from South America to Europe. 

Thirty-four years ago, Argentina knocked England out of the World Cup quarter-finals in Mexico with Maradona scoring two goals in the space of four minutes.

His first was immortalised in football folklore as the 'Hand of God' goal after the diminutive Argentine leapt in front of onrushing goalkeeper Peter Shilton to touch the ball into the empty net with his fist.

The second was the product of a mazy run past half the England team to score what was later known as the 'Goal of the Century'.

Here's how the world, including the international press, remembered the Argentinian. 

Britain

Tributes flowed in England, whose famous clash with Argentina at the 1986 World Cup played a role in creating the "myth" around the footballer. 

"Hero, villain, genius." - The Daily Telegraph
"Hero, villain, genius." - The Daily Telegraph

The news graced most of the nation's front pages, many of them referencing the infamous "hand of God" goal in 1986. 

Javier Figueroa, the Argentinian ambassador to the UK, lowered the Argentinian flag outside his official residence in central London on Wednesday night following the news of the 60-year-old World Cup winner's death.

The ambassador, who only took up his role two months ago, said he was "deeply saddened" by the passing of one of football's greatest ever players.

"Everyone in Argentina is mourning and crying, of course. But I think it's not only in Argentina, I think he was a giant in sport and football," he said.

Mr Figueroa said the legendary former midfielder was "sort of a myth in Argentina... a figure that is beyond sport".

"In a way I think the UK was part of the construction of this myth, because of the history we have and because of the sport rivalry that we have.

"In Argentina, when we play against Brazil, or Uruguay, or UK... there are big expectations."

Former England striker Gary Lineker said he was "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," he said.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, a former player and coach at Barcelona, said: "There was a banner in Argentina, one year ago I read it. It said: 'No matter what you have have done with your life, Diego, it matters what you have done for our lives.' I think it expresses perfectly what this guy gave us. The amount of joy and the pleasure and his commitment for world football. He made world football better."

Italy

If there's one place outside Argentina that will likely match - or possibly even exceed - the outpouring of mourning for Maradona, it's in Naples.

While Maradona was revered around the world as perhaps the greatest football player ever, in Naples he was more than that.

Maradona was treated as a deity for the way he led Napoli to its only two Serie A titles - in 1987 and 1990 - and raised the spirits of the southern Italian city, which remains far removed both geographically and socio-economically from the country's soccer capitals of Milan and Turin.

"Maradona wasn't just a player. He represented the spirit of Napoli for years," said former Napoli president Corrado Ferlaino, who owned the club when Maradona played there.

"Goodbye Diego, all the pain of Napoli," the local newspaper Il Mattino said on its front page, alongside a picture of the "tears and lights at a vigil at San Paolo".

Il Mattino
Il Mattino

Napoli said in a  statement: "Everyone is waiting for our words but what words could we possibly use for a pain such as this that we are going through? Now is the moment for tears. Then there will be the moment for words.

"We are in mourning. We feel like a boxer who has been knocked out. We are in shock. A devastating blow for both city and club. Always in our hearts. Ciao Diego."

For the Corriere dello Sport, Maradona will always be immortal. 

"Diego lives," it declared on the front page. 

Corriere Dello Sport
Corriere Dello Sport

Pope Francis remembers Maradona with affection and is keeping him in his prayers, the Vatican said on Wednesday, and official Holy See media called him "soccer's poet".

Maradona met the pope several times at the Vatican after Francis was elected in 2013 as Latin America's first pope.

"The pope was informed about the death of Diego Maradona, he recalls the times he met him in these past years with affection, and he is remembering him in his prayers, as he did in the past days when he was informed about his condition," Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.

Argentina

In his homeland, Argentina's stunned football fans sought each other out  to mourn his death, gathering by the hundreds in spots linked to the life of the legendary player.

They gathered outside the humble home where he was born and raised in the Villa Fiorito neighbourhood. They went to the stadium of Argentinos Juniors, where he started as a professional footballer in 1976. They stood at the historic La Bombonera stadium of his beloved Boca Juniors. More were at the headquarters of Gimnasia La Plata, the team he was coaching.

La Nacion, one of the country's leading newspapers, covered its website's homepage with a close up of Maradona, with a headline that simply said: "Maradona will never die."

La Nacion
La Nacion

Argentina captain Lionel Messi said: "A very sad day for all Argentinians and for football. He has left us but he isn't going anywhere because Diego is eternal. I'll remember the lovely moments I experienced with him and I send my condolences to his family and friends. Rest in peace."

Argentina President Alberto Fernandez said: "You took us to the highest point in the world, and made us immensely happy. You were the greatest of all. Thank you for being you, Diego, we will miss you for the rest of our lives."

Argentina's football association said: "Argentina's football association, through its president Claudio Tapia, shares its deepest pain over the death of our legend, Diego Armando Maradona. You will always be in our hearts."

Another newspaper, Clarin, declared on its homepage: "Maradona has died and the world is in mourning."

Clarin
Clarin

Elsewhere in Europe

In France, L'Equipe mourned Maradona's passing with the powerful headline: "God is dead."

Liberation also went with a divine reference, with a headline that said: "Celestial."

In Spain, Marca splashed his death on the front page, alongside one of his quotes: "If I die, I want to be born again and I want to be a football player. And I want to be Diego Armando Maradona again. I am a player who has given people joy and that is enough for me."

ABC was lost for words on its front page. "Diego," it said, alongside a full page picture of the great man. 

In Germany, Bild also referenced his 1986 goal. "Maradona in the hand of God."

Bild
Bild

The Rheinische Post, meanwhile, bid farewell to "God's hand."

Rheinische Post
Rheinische Post