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Barcelona and Napoli lead tributes to former star Maradona


Paris (AFP) – Clubs across Europe continued to pay tribute to Diego Maradona on Sunday with particularly poignant moments in Italy and Spain where the Argentine played.

Maradona, who played two seasons for Barca, one for Sevilla and spent seven mostly glorious years at Napoli, died on Wednesday aged 60.

Barcelona played on Sunday afternoon while Napoli were planning an elaborate and emotional tribute before their game in the evening.

Before Barcelona faced Osasuna, the club played ‘The Song of the Birds’ by Catalan cellist Pablo Casals as the teams stood around the centre circle where a Maradona shirt was laid on the centre spot.

Lionel Messi, who has inherited Maradona’s legendary Argentina number 10 shirt, bowed his head.

Flags at the Camp Nou flew at half mast, Maradona’s image was displayed on every screen and digital advertising hoarding, while a club official held a framed Maradona Barcelona shirt.

Messi got his goal in the 74th minute with a dazzling strike that sealed a 4-0 victory.

The Argentine picked up the ball in midfield, danced past two defenders and smashed a rising left-foot shot into the top far corner.

He celebrated by pulling off his Barcelona shirt to reveal a vintage Newell’s Old Boys jersey from Maradona’s one season with the club in Rosario, Argentina.  

Earlier this week, Newell’s tweeted a photograph from Maradona’s debut showing a six-year-old local prodigy, in a similar black and red shirt, doing ball tricks for the crowd at half-time. That boy was Messi.

“It was a great moment,” said Koeman. “Leo’s goal, his gesture dedicated to Maradona.

“It was something very big. We Europeans don’t realise how big Maradona is in Argentina.”

On Friday, Koeman said the best tribute his team could pay Maradona was to “show what we can do on the pitch”.

In Italy, in addition to the minute’s silence, players have stopped to applaud for 60 seconds as Maradona’s picture appears on the stadium screens in the 10th minute.

– ‘I felt like crying’ –

In Rome, Lazio’s players took to the pitch with special edition ‘AD10S’ jerseys in honour of Maradona but lost 3-1 to Udinese, for whom four Argentine-born players followed Koeman’s advice.

Roberto Pereyra set up the first goal, then Rodrigo De Paul provided assists for the next two, scored by Ignacio Pussetto and Fernando Forestieri.

After his goal, Pussetto opened his hands wide, to form 10.

“This victory is for him,” said Forestieri. “After the goal I felt like crying. Diego was the greatest of all time.”

Maradona’s former club Napoli host Roma with tributes planned for the player who led the club to their only league titles in 1987 and 1990 and the UEFA Cup in 1989.

Napoli will wear a jersey reminiscent of Argentina’s for their first league game since his death.

The club said the launch had already been planned with kit sponsors Kappa before Maradona’s death.

“A year ago, together with Kappa, we thought of designing a special jersey that echoes Diego Maradona, his beloved Argentina and the very strong bond with the people of Naples,” Napoli said in a statement.

“Together we hoped that Diego could see it, maybe wear it and share in the excitement with us. 

“The presentation of the new kit had already been agreed for the ninth matchday of the championship, on the occasion of the SSC Napoli-Roma match. 

“The Kombat that will be worn by the players tonight will have an even greater significance than initially assumed.”

In Germany, Bundesliga clubs observed a minute’s silence before games. In England, players applauded for a minute.

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