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Klopp, Bielsa among Premier League managers paying tribute

Premier League managers have paid their respects to Diego Maradona, who died on Wednesday at the age of 60 following a heart attack at his home.

Argentina President Alberto Fernandez confirmed three days of national mourning following the news.

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, speaking ahead of his side’s match against Brighton on Saturday, said: “The best through my lifetime. Maybe it is not right anymore because I have seen Cristiano [Ronaldo] and Lionel [Messi] many times now as well. In my own playing career, he was the standout player.

“His life I think shows how nice and how difficult life can be when you are a world-class footballer.

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“I met him once. For a player of my level meeting him was like meeting the Pope.”

Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa also paid his respects to his fellow countryman.

He said: “He was for us, and will continue to be, an idol. Given the fact he is not here with us anymore brings us great sadness. Having lost an idol, it’s something that makes us feel weak

“Maradona was an artist. To give one example that stands out: the songs written about him are extraordinary and I read 10 texts after his death that have been emotional.

“I don’t recall where I was [when I watched the ‘Hand of God’ goal] but the expression of a work of art is something that you can’t put to too many things. When you see a beautiful church you are taken back, this was a similar feeling I had when Diego scored.”

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The Argentine government confirmed that Maradona’s body will lie in state at the Casa Rosada government headquarters and he will be given a state funeral.

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti added how important Maradona was to the City of Napoli. Ancelotti served as Napoli manager during the 2018-19 season.

“Maradona was a fantastic player, the best player on the planet at that time. He came to Napoli and Napoli became the toughest opponent when I was with Milan,” he said.

“I played against him a lot of times — sometimes I was not able to stop him. I tried to kick him, sometimes, but he was so, so strong and so fast. I have fantastic memories of him.

“At the end of our careers, I met him two or three times. He was a really funny guy, a really good man. Of course, he had a very intense life. But he was — and still will be — a legend of football.

“Napoli loves Maradona. With Maradona, they had the best period in the history of the club. Maradona brought the Napoli supporters to heaven.

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“You cannot say who was the best, Maradona or Pele, but they are both legends. They helped football be more important in the world.”

Thousands of Argentinians honoured Maradona on Thursday at a public wake held at the Casa Rosada’s presidential palace in Buenos Aires.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said that Maradona is the greatest ever football player.

“It was a sad day; for me Diego Maradona will always be the best player I’ve seen live,” Solskjaer said. “A guy with unbelievable talent on the pitch, a smile always when you saw him. For me, he will be the best that ever played football.”

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard also paid his respects to the former Argentina No.10.

“He was the player on the world stage that made me fall in love with the game. I was fortunate enough to meet him very briefly, he was a footballing god and it is very sad,” he said.

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Premier League managers’ reaction round up:

Brighton manager Graham Potter: “He was and is an iconic figure in football. I remember watching him in the 1986 World Cup and it was an amazing experience as an 11-year-old.

“It was like seeing football in a completely different way. He was amazing and of course, thoughts go out to his family. What a life he led, what a legend he is.”

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce: “Whenever he was on the TV and any game he was involved in, I would tune in to watch him. It’s a sadness that we’ve lost a great, great footballer. Maradona was simply the best.”

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