Maradona passed away in Tigre, Buenos Aires, on Tuesday at the age of 60. The Argentine has seen his life chequered by health problems ever since his retirement in the late 1990s.
“When he left the clinic, we all expected him to give us another lesson in recovery,” Valdano said in comments carried by Diario AS. “He’d already come back from situations like this. He was someone of enormous strength. This loss has hurt me immensely, both the loss of the player and the man.”
Valdano was then asked about his experiences with Maradona. “Many of the memories I have with him make me smile,” he began, before breaking down into tears.
He recovered after a few minutes. “What made me smile then makes me sad now,” he said. “There is no better place to say goodbye to him than in a football stadium [he was speaking from the San Siro].
“What he did in this space was his life. For him and for the people. All of Argentina cries for him, as does everyone who loves football. Even the ball cries.
“He went through difficult times but he will be remembered for his work. He has been one of the best. Beginning today, there will be one more hero in the standing of Evita and Gardel. He will never be forgotten.”
Valdano began his career in Argentina with Newell’s Old Boys before moving to Spain in 1975 to play for Alaves. He spent four years there before five with Real Zaragoza and three with Real Madrid. As a coach, he’s been involved with Tenerife, Madrid and Valencia.
Maradona had three significant moments in Spain. He played in the 1982 World Cup hosted by the country, before a two year spell with Barcelona and a season with Sevilla, a decade apart and either side of his peak with Napoli in Italy.
Featured image courtesy of Milenio.