Wed, 20 Jan 2021

Kevin Keegan hailed "unplayable" Diego Maradona on Thursday, describing the diminutive Argentine sporting genius as a giant on the pitch as the world mourned his death.

Tributes have poured in from around the globe after Maradona, 60, died from a heart attack on Wednesday at his home north of capital Buenos Aires.

Former England captain Keegan, who later managed the international side, played against the superstar forward early in his career, in a 3-1 win for the home side at Wembley in 1980.

"I played against maybe three players who I could put in his class," he told the BBC. "I played against Pele when he was 38, (Johan) Cruyff. And then (there are) the ones we're watching now, (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi."

Keegan said Maradona's ability to turn and his courage helped make him special.

"I've got pictures of myself and him together because he wanted my shirt after the game and I tower above him," he said.

"I'm barely 5 feet 8 inches (173 centimetres). He would be about 5ft 6ins but he was enormous on a football field and I remember that day at Wembley.

"I think we beat them 3-1 but he went past three or four players and he went past me and I thought 'I'd never seen anyone do that to me'."

Keegan said the Argentine had an "incredible football brain".

"It was when he was at his very, very best, I would say between 20 and 22 before other things started getting in the way, he was unplayable, you couldn't get the ball off him," he said.

Maradona is most famous in England for his "Hand of God" goal, which helped knock Bobby Robson's side out of the 1986 World Cup.

Keegan called the handball goal a "travesty" but pointed to his second goal in the match.

"He also scored one of the greatest goals in that game as well when he went past four or five people from the halfway line," he said

"Unfortunately... people will remember the fact that he was banned from a World Cup for drugs (in 1994), they'll remember other things that he did wrong.

"There were plenty of them in there but I would think that for the next few days we'll just remember him for the genius he was on the football field."

Keegan said he would pick Maradona ahead of Barcelona's Messi if forced to choose one of them for his team.

"Maradona and Messi are exceptional players but if you said to me in their peak, and Maradona at 22, and Messi at 22, having played against Maradona, having seen him so close I can't believe Messi was better than that so I would give him the edge."

Source: News24

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