Diego Maradona died Wednesday, the immortal soccer star suffering a heart attack in his native Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Maradona’s legendary playing career briefly overlapped with San Jose Earthquakes’ head coach Matias Almeyda’s own playing career, Almeyda and Maradona on opposite sides of the Boca Juniors-River Plate superclasico in the mid-1990s.
They were both longtime Argentina internationals, but whereas Maradona’s role was to supply magic in attack, Almeyda was the engine room, a defensive midfielder doing the dirty work for the attacking stars.
Almeyda and Maradona did end up playing together, in a sense, as they traveled the world on an exhibition tour after Almeyda’s first retirement, and they clearly knew each other quite well, Almeyda’s playing career progression — from Argentine grande to Spain, Italy, and then back home again — mirroring Maradona’s.
Maradona was very ill around 2004-05, and treatment to deal with longterm drug addiction and weight gain gave him another 15 years of life, although he never quite kicked his demons.
But there’s a clip widely circulating after Maradona’s death from this period, just after he got clean in 2005, featuring Almeyda surprising the legend on his talk show.
At the age of 12, a young @peladoalmeyda wrote a letter to his idol.— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) November 25, 2020
Years later, Matias Almeyda & Diego Maradona would meet in front of a live TV audience. Maradona's reaction says it all.
He was an inspiration for so many. Thank you for sharing your gift with the world. pic.twitter.com/aJ1YX2Cczr
I think the best part of this is absolutely Maradona realizing the pibe he was expecting to meet turned out to be Almeyda, who was himself famous and successful, and getting emotional. Almeyda calling it “a dream come true,” is a wonderfully touching coda on it all.
Maradona is gone, but we will continue to have him in our memories. QEPD, Diego.
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