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‘Like meeting the Pope!’ – Klopp recalls Maradona encounter & pays tribute to Argentine legend

The Liverpool manager says football has lost one of its greatest ever figures after the former Napoli star passed away this week aged just 60

Jurgen Klopp has paid tribute to the late Diego Maradona, and says meeting the Argentine legend was like having an audience with the Pope.

Maradona passed away this week at the age of 60, leaving the football world in mourning.

Tributes have flown in from across the globe for the former Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli star, who was widely considered as one of the game’s all-time greats.

Klopp was among those to pay his respects, doing so before and after Liverpool’s Champions League game with Atalanta on Wednesday night.

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And speaking at a press conference ahead of his side’s trip to Brighton, the Reds boss reiterated his belief that Maradona stands among the legends of the sport.

He said: “[He is] the best in my lifetime, which I watched most often. 

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“Maybe that’s not right anymore because I watched Cristiano [Ronaldo] and Lionel [Messi] a few times now as well. But during my own playing career he was the standout player. 

“His life shows how nice life can be when you are a world-class footballer, and how difficult it can be as well. 

“He was a very, very impressive figure. I met him once, which for a player of my level was like meeting the Pope, to be honest! It was really, really special.

“Football will miss him, I will miss him, and you can see that with the reaction all over the world. If we would have shown our love for him without wanting to have a selfie, if we had shown him the respect he deserved while he was still alive, then I think we could have helped him.”

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Maradona’s body is lying in honour at Casa Rosada, the presidential mansion in Buenos Aires, during three days of national mourning in Argentina. His coffin was draped in the national flag, as well as a football shirt bearing his iconic No.10.

Thousands turned out to pay their respects in the capital, although the day was marred when clashes between police and mourners broke out.

Maradona, who captained Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986 and went on to coach his country, is survived by his five children and his former wife, Claudia Villafane, with whom he split in 2004.

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