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Pele, Messi, others pay tribute to Maradona

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  • Pele: I hope we can play football together in the sky
  • Diego is eternal, says Mess

Pele paid tribute to his fellow all-time great Diego Maradona after the Argentina legend’s death at the age of 60, saying, “One day, I hope we can play football together in the sky.”

The Brazilian three-time World Cup winner has consistently been compared as Maradona’s closest competitor in debates and polls to decide the greatest footballer of all time.

Pele, 80, issued heartfelt praise for Maradona, writing on his official Twitter account: “What sad news. I lost a great friend and the world lost a legend.

“There is still much to be said, but for now, may God give strength to family members. One day, I hope we can play football together in the sky.”

Maradona’s death was confirmed by Argentina’s football association. He had been in hospital in Buenos Aires after surgery to remove a blood clot on the brain earlier this month.

He captained his country to World Cup glory in Mexico in 1986, and later led Napoli to two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990.

Lionel Messi, the greatest Argentina player of the current generation, wrote on Instagram: “A very sad day for all Argentines and for football. He leaves us but does not leave, because Diego is eternal.

“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.”

Argentina eliminated England from the 1986 finals at the quarter-final stage, as Maradona scored twice. The first was a blatant handball – ‘the Hand of God as Maradona described it – and the second a stunning solo effort.

Gary Lineker, who was playing for England that day, tweeted: “By some distance the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time.

“After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God. #RipDiego”

Lineker later added on BT Sport: “I played for a Rest of the World side at Wembley, when I was at Barcelona, all the great players like (Michel) Platini on the pitch were all totally in awe of him.

“The first thing he did in the dressing room was sit there in just a pair of shorts, juggling his socks on his left foot for about five minutes.

“Then he went out on the pitch and did something incredible, one of the most unbelievable things I have even seen on a football pitch.

“He juggled the ball all the way out to the centre circle, when he got there, still juggling, he went ‘bang’ and kicked the ball up as high as he could, then waited.

“It came down; he went ‘bang’ and did it again. He did it 13 times and the most he ever did was walk three paces to it.

“All of us were sitting there saying: ‘that is impossible’.”

European football’s governing body UEFA held minute’s silences before all Wednesday night’s Champions League matches in tribute to Maradona.

Boca Juniors, where Maradona made his name before securing a then world-record transfer to Barcelona in 1982, tweeted: “Eternal thanks. Eternal Diego.”

Asif Kapadia, who directed the 2019 film Maradona, tweeted: “Can’t quite believe DM has gone. Hard to process.

“He always seemed indestructible. I had 10 hours with the man!! I touched his left foot. We did our best to show the world the man, the myth, the fighter he was. The greatest.”

Peter Reid, another member of the England side which suffered from the left foot – and hand – of Maradona in 1986, spoke highly of the South American’s incredible footballing gift, exhibited so gloriously during the 2-1 quarter-final win.

He said, “The crowd in the stadium exploded in terms of the first goal being given. There were a few of us running after the Tunisian referee but they didn’t see it. It was cute the way he did it, but to us on the pitch, it was obvious.

“My Spanish ain’t great and his Scouse wasn’t great, but I met him in Dubai a few years ago and I did ask him about it. He laughed, and he reiterated to me that it was the ‘Hand of God’. I am going to argue, because he cheated. But as bad as that one was, the second one was a great goal.”

Regarding that second goal, a slaloming solo effort voted the best of the century on an online FIFA poll in 2002, Reid said:”It’s something that I’ve seen once or twice, if I’m being honest. We were playing against someone who was at the absolute height of his career and as bad as the first goal was, that was outstanding.

“I saw him go past the great Alan Hansen in 1981 for the first time. He had this in his locker. He made people, like the No 16 [Peter Reid], look foolish.”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said: “There was a banner in Argentina some time ago when it said ‘it doesn’t matter what you have done with your life, it matters what you have done with our lives’.

“I think Maradona would have done in our generation. There are a few incredible players in history, and he is one of them.”

Cristiano Ronaldo, who alongside Messi is regarded as one of the game’s greatest current players, also offered his own personal tribute.

The Juventus and Portugal star posted on Twitter: “Today I bid farewell to a friend and the world farewells to an eternal genius.

“One of the best ever, an unmatched magician. Leaves too soon but leaves a boundless legacy and a void that will never be filled. RIP. You will never be forgotten.”

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Arsenal agree £50m deal for Brighton’s defender

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Arsenal has agreed on a deal in principle for the £50m transfer of Brighton & Hove Albion defender Ben White.

White was a late call-up to Gareth Southgate’s England Euro 2020 squad.

It completes a meteoric rise for the 23-year-old, who was released by Southampton as a youngster before being signed by Brighton.

He went on a number of loans from the Seagulls, including to Leeds’ Championship title-winning side in 2019-20.

White’s performances for Leeds attracted the attention of many leading clubs and prompted Brighton to secure him on a new four-year contract last summer.

That deal put the Seagulls in a strong negotiating position this summer and it is understood they rejected two bids from the Gunners before agreement was finally reached amid interest from other Premier League clubs.

White is on holiday so the transfer, including his medical, will not be completed until he returns.

The transfer comes as Arsenal part ways with Brazil defender David Luiz after his contract expired.

The Gunners have also signed 21-year-old left-back Nuno Tavares from Benfica for £8m this summer.

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Messi to sign new five-year Barcelona contract, take 50% wage cut

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Lionel Messi will sign a new five-year contract at Barcelona and take an incredible 50 per cent wage cut, Goal can confirm.
Messi has spent his entire career to date on Barca’s books, having initially made his debut for the club as a teenager in 2004, but dropped into the free agency pool at the start of July after reaching the end of his contract.
The Argentine won’t be embarking on a new challenge away from Camp Nou anytime soon, though, with the Blaugrana set to announce that they have tied the six-time Ballon d’Or winner down to a fresh long-term deal.
Messi earned a staggering €550 million (£468m/$650m) over the course of his last five-year contract at Camp Nou, which equates to around €75m (£64m/$89m) per season.
However, Barca were unable to hand the 34-year-old similarly lucrative renewal terms after exceeding La Liga’s wage limit at the end of the 2020-21 campaign .
League president Javier Tebas warned that the Blaugrana could not legally register Messi without significantly reducing their salary costs, with the likes of Junior Firpo, Jean-Clair Todibo, Carles Alena and Juan Miranda all subsequently sold to raise extra funds.
Messi has also agreed to halve his yearly earnings in order to re-sign for Barca, and Goal has learned that they will formally announce his new contract in the coming weeks after a few minor details are finalised.
Did Messi have any other offers on the table?
Messi became available on a free transfer upon the expiration of his last deal, and it has been reported that the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Inter have all shown an interest in signing the Argentina international.
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A possible return to boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys was also mooted, along with a potential foray into MLS with David Beckham-owned franchise Inter Miami.
Goal understands that Messi received several formal offers, including an attractive proposal from PSG, but he ultimately decided to remain a one-club man and continue playing for Barca until 2026 – at which point he will be 39 years of age.
-Goal

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