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'Diego Maradona had it all': Norman Whiteside’s tribute to Argentinian ‘god’ he played against and starred alongside


Maradona celebrates Argentina’s 1986 World Cup final win over Germany in Mexico

Maradona celebrates Argentina’s 1986 World Cup final win over Germany in Mexico

�INPHO/Billy Stickland

Maradona celebrates Argentina’s 1986 World Cup final win over Germany in Mexico

Manchester United and Northern Ireland legend Norman Whiteside acclaimed Argentinian 'god' Diego Maradona, saying: "He had it all."

All-time great Maradona passed away yesterday, just a few weeks after his 60th birthday, ironically on the 15th anniversary of the death of our own George Best with whom he was regarded, along with Brazilian Pele, as the holy trinity of football.

Maradona, the midfield linchpin of the Argentina side that won the 1986 World Cup and former national team manager, suffered a fatal heart attack at his home.

Whiteside played with and against Maradona in his 1980s prime, firstly in a famous Manchester United European Cup Winners Cup win over Barcelona in 1984 and then alongside him in a Rest of the World team against France in Michel Platini's farewell game in 1988.

Whiteside remembered: "I first encountered Maradona at Old Trafford against Barcelona in the 1984 Cup Winners Cup quarter-final.


Norman Whiteside

Norman Whiteside

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Norman Whiteside

"We won 3-0 from 2-0 down from the first leg. It was the best atmosphere ever. He was quiet that night but had an aura about him and what a world-class player he was.

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"He was blessed with a great left leg but he had it all. For someone so small in stature, he was incredibly strong and he used his low centre of gravity to great effect. Defenders couldn't get close to him. With his balance and dribbling skills, it looked as though the ball was tied to his feet.

"I once read that, as a boy, he practiced in the dark to learn to control the ball by touch."

Whiteside, who still holds the record as the youngest World Cup player, aged 17, with Northern Ireland at Spain '82, was later to star alongside Maradona, at the invitation of Platini, in his 1988 farewell game.

"It was an unforgettable experience, being among the world's top players at that time, but especially Maradona," he said.

"But what I remember most was afterwards when we were gathered for the post-match banquet. The world's finest are seated and Maradona arrives late, making a grand entrance, surrounded by 10 bodyguards. He was more than just a footballer. To the Argentinian people who idolised him, he was a god."

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