A heartfelt tribute from Gary Lineker to the one and only Diego Maradona, including a lovely story that sums up the Argentine’s true genius.
This is what stands out about Lineker’s tribute to Maradona. Lineker’s story on Maradona juggling: Lineker talking about Maradona juggling the ball high up in the air 13 times in a row. Sure, juggling the ball is something, but can you smack the ball high up in the air and keep juggling it? It’s an excellent story that epitomizes Maradona’s touch and control of the soccer ball.
“He did something that was incredible,” Lineker said, “one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever seen on a football pitch. He juggled the ball all the way out to the centre circle and then he went *bang!* and he whacked it as high as he possibly could and he waited.
“And it came down. Then 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 going ‘that’s impossible!’ I remember going to training the next day at Barcelona. We all tried it and the best anyone did was three and they were running for the third one.
To be able to do whatever he wanted with the ball. That was the genius of Maradona.
Of course, Maradona’s warm up routine is well known. Where it’s clear that Maradona was at home on the soccer pitch with the ball at his foot. That’s what will be missed about Maradona, the joy he brought to the game when he played.
Here’s Jorge Valdano on Diego Maradona’s brilliance with the soccer ball. Like Lineker’s Maradona juggling story, Valdano talks about Maradona amazing ability to do what the ball wanted no matter how high he kicked it. Plus, Maradona did it all with an ease, as though it was nothing.
The ball and its master: an idyll that grew with time, to the point that watching them together was a spectacle of its own. When he trained, to give but one example, he would send it high into the sky with a touch that only he could understand still less apply and while the ball travelled on its journey, he would do exercises below, as if he couldn’t remember that he had left it hanging up there.
When at last the ball fell to his level, he would look up, acting as if he was surprised to see it there, send it sailing back into the sky and forget about it for a while longer, until it returned to him again. He knew exactly where and when they would be reunited; his precision, his command, ensured that. His infinite repertoire left you with a complex.