Lionel Messi on Maradona: 'He does not leave because Diego is eternal'

The Barcelona star remembers his fellow Argentine legend after his death aged 60

Diego Maradona is gone but will never be forgotten, according to Lionel Messi.

The Argentine pair are regarded by many as the greatest footballers of all time, and after Maradona's death at the age of 60, Messi penned an emotional tribute.

"A very sad day for all Argentines and for football. He leaves us but does not leave, because Diego is eternal," he wrote in an Instagram post.

"I keep all the beautiful moments lived with him and I wanted to take the opportunity to send my condolences to all his family and friends. RIP."

Maradona died of a heart attack at home in Tigre, Argentina, where he was recovering following recent brain surgery.

Unlike Messi, Maradona experienced success on the international stage, as he inspired his nation to World Cup glory in 1986 when they beat West Germany in the final.

He provided two of the most memorable moments in World Cup history along the way with his Hand of God goal and incredible dribble - both against England in the quarter-final.

Maradona later managed Messi at the 2010 World Cup. Before the tournament in South Africa, he said Messi was "playing a kick-about with Jesus", and also said "Messi is better than me at World Cup '86. He's the best player in the world and better by far compared to others".

However, the pair were unable to experience success, and Messi failed to register a single goal despite Argentine reaching the quarter final where they were beaten 4-0 by Germany.

Messi has also spoken fondly of Maradona before.

"Even if I played for a million years, I’d never come close to Maradona," he said in 2010.

"Not that I’d want to anyway. He’s the greatest there’s ever been."

He also revealed the self-belief that Maradona gave him.

"The truth is that Maradona has always been very nice to me, even before he was our coach and I took my first steps as a professional," Messi told CNN in 2010.

"Now that I have him as a coach, he's even more close and he gives me a lot more of his confidence than he did before."

He added: "At first, it was strange to have him as our coach. The truth is he was a little imposing.

"But afterwards, we started getting used to him and he's been our coach for a while, so now it's normal. Also, he's really close to the players, he's one of the guys, so there's no problem."

Maradona played 91 times for Argentina, scoring 34 goals - the last of which came in 1994. Messi meanwhile has now made 142 appearances for his country, scoring 71 goals.

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