Barcelona, AFP-JIJI – Clubs across Europe continued to pay tribute to Diego Maradona on Sunday with particularly poignant moments in Spain and Italy, where the Argentine played.
With his country and the world of soccer still mourning, Lionel Messi found his own way to mark the passing of the only Argentine player to surpass his own greatness on the field.
Messi paid tribute on Sunday by stripping off his Barcelona top to reveal a shirt honoring Maradona after he scored the final goal in a 4-0 rout of Osasuna.
Messi celebrated his powerful strike from outside the box by taking off Barcelona’s blue-and-burgundy to reveal the red-and-black of Maradona’s jersey from his stint at Newell’s Old Boys. Messi then blew a kiss with both hands to the sky as he looked upward.
After the game, Messi posted a photo of his tribute alongside an older image of Maradona in the same shirt, adding the message "Farewell, Diego” in Spanish.
"It was a great moment,” said Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman. "First, for the goal that Leo scored and then for the gesture he had for the death of Diego Maradona. He had surely been thinking of what he would do. For me, it was a great moment in every way.”
Messi played for Newell’s before he joined Barcelona at age 13. Maradona played five matches for Newell’s near the end of a playing career that made him a legend in his home country. In an interview with Argentine television TyC in 2013, Messi said that when he was a young boy he went to the stadium for Maradona’s debut for Newell’s in 1993.
Messi kept his head bowed during the minute of silence before kickoff in the Spanish league game at the empty Camp Nou for Maradona, who died of a heart attack on Wednesday at age 60. Maradona played for Barcelona from 1982-84.
"We have lost Diego, a world idol,” Barcelona’s Brazilian forward Philippe Coutinho said. "Everyone admired him and we will all miss him. (Messi’s) tribute was beautiful.”
Coutinho also scored for Barcelona, along with Martin Braithwaite and Antoine Griezmann.
Considered by many as the best player in his generation — and one of the greatest ever — Messi has been judged, especially back home, by how his career compares to that of Maradona.
Messi shares the lower center of gravity, the supreme dribbling skills and the ability to score eye-popping goals with Argentina’s other great No. 10. But while his life focused on soccer and family has kept him well clear of the addictions that ruined Maradona’s health, Messi has never been able to reproduce the 1986 World Cup trophy Maradona led his country to, coming closest in 2014 when a Messi-led Argentina lost in the final to Germany.
Messi’s tribute to Maradona overshadowed a fine performance by Griezmann, the France forward who has been criticized for not reaching his potential at Barcelona.
"It was important to get this win because those at the top of table keep winning and we couldn’t slip again,” Griezmann said. "We did not know what Messi had planned to honor Maradona. It was a nice surprise.”
In Italy, Maradona's former club Napoli thumped Roma 4-0 following a fitting tribute for the player who led the club to its only league titles in 1987 and 1990 and the UEFA Cup in 1989.
The club played in a shirt reminiscent of Argentina's for its first league game since Maradona's death. The club said the launch of the jersey had been in the works for the past year.
Captain Lorenzo Insigne, who curled in a free-kick after half an hour, celebrated his goal by holding up and kissing Maradona's iconic No. 10 shirt.
"It's sure these days after Maradona's death have given us an extra boost, our idol has passed away and it hurts," said Insigne.
"Today we wanted more than usual to perform and get a result, for him and for the whole city that is suffering. We dedicate the victory to him."
The Stadio San Paolo is expected to be renamed in Maradona's honor following a suggestion by the Mayor of Napoli.
In Germany, Bundesliga clubs observed a minute's silence before games. In England, players applauded for a minute.
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