Diego Maradona’s off-field antics don’t matter in terms of his lasting legacy as a footballer and a human being, according to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Maradona died at the age of 60 his home in Buenos Aires on Wednesday after suffering a heart attack, having undergone brain surgery on a blood clot at the start of the month.
The Argentina great, who led his country to glory at the World Cup finals in 1986, was also being treated for alcohol dependency, and his struggles with drug abuse both during and after his playing career had been well documented.
However, the former Napoli and Barcelona midfielder is widely considered to be one of the greatest players of all time, with the likes of Pele, Gary Lineker, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp among those to have offered heartfelt tributes following his passing.
Ibrahimovic gave his own testimonial on Maradona during an interview with Sky Sports, during which he insisted the personal demons he struggled with away from football should not detract from the impact he had on the game.
“I’m so sorry, because for me Maradona is more than football. It has become a religion for many and I was lucky enough to know him and talk to him,” said the Milan striker.
“He is a symbol of what he has done on the pitch. I always judge him for what he did on the pitch, what he did outside, in my opinion, is his problem and not ours.
“We must remember him for what he did as a footballer and in my opinion, he will be remembered forever. When you see number 10 who do you think about? Maradona.
“It is a symbol, even today there are those who choose that number for him.”
Ibrahimovic added on Maradona being a flawed genius whose passion set him apart from his peers at the very highest level: “As a person, he did everything with his heart, there were no other motives or thoughts.
“I don’t know if that’s the right thing, but that’s why the whole world loved him.
“He was always himself. In today’s football, everyone tries to be perfect, but to grow and learn you have to make mistakes.
“Maradona always did everything with his heart and will always remain number one.”