Lionel Messi delivers emotional Diego Maradona tribute statement after icon’s death

Lionel Messi has joined the thousands of current and former footballers paying tribute to football icon Diego Maradona after his tragic death on Wednesday. Maradona underwent successful brain surgery earlier this month but was then undergoing treatment for alcohol dependency.

But news broke in his native country on Wednesday that nine ambulances were sent to his house in Buenos Aires.

One of the nurses caring for him raised to alarm after discovering Maradona had suffered a suspected heart attack before he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Maradona’s death has led to floods of tributes from the footballing world.

The likes of Pele, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gary Lineker and Paul Gascoigne have all written kind words in memory of the legendary Argentine figure.

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And Messi, who’s magical football career has been likened to that of Maradona, has delivered his own tribute to the football icon.

“A very sad day for all Argentines and for football,” he wrote on Instagram.

“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”

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Speaking back in 2015, Messi admitted that Maradona was his inspiration to start playing football in the first place.

“I never followed anyone in particular, although when I started to think for myself Diego [Maradona] had recently returned home. That was in 1993,” he said.

“He joined Newell’s Old Boys when he came back from Spain and was part of the national team that qualified for USA ’94.

“If anybody inspired me starting out, it was undoubtedly him.

The Barcelona superstar was born a year after Maradona’s heroics at the 1986 World Cup.

He would have grown up though watching Maradona’s rise to global sensation at Napoli though as the legendary figure broke down barriers in Italy.

The pair shared a close bond as Messi’s career began to take shape in 2005.

And they linked up with the national team in 2008 when Maradona became head coach.

It wasn’t to be though as Argentina crashed out of the World Cup at the quarter-finals stage, losing to Germany.

Maradona has always held a legendary status back in Argentina but his death has proven just how much he was revered in his home nation.

Argentina’s president Alberto Fernandez has announced there will be three days of national mourning.

And he paid tribute on social media, tweeting: “You took us to the highest point of the world, and made us immensely happy. You were the greatest of all. Thank you for having been with us, Diego. We will miss you all our lives.”

Pele, who is considered to be the only footballer to have matched Maradona’s ability on the football pitch, was also among those to pay a touching tribute.

“Certainly, one day we’ll kick a ball together in the sky above,” he said in a statement to Reuters.

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