Eight medical personnel who treated Diego Maradona prior to his death will stand trial for alleged criminal neglect.

On Wednesday, a judge in Argentina ordered a culpable homicide trial for the individuals, including Maradona's family doctor and nurses, with evidence they failed to take "action that could have prevented the death" in November 2020.

The Argentina and Napoli icon died at the age of 60 while recovering from a blood clot, which came after years of battling with cocaine and alcohol addictions.

Maradona was found dead two weeks after the procedure in a rented house in Buenos Aires where he was brought after being discharged from hospital, having suffered a heart attack.

Argentina's public prosecutor convened a panel of 20 medical experts last year who concluded that Maradona's treatment was rife with "deficiencies and irregularities" and said he "would have had a better chance of survival" in an adequate medical facility.

Prosecutors asked for Maradona's caregivers to be put on trial, stating he had been abandoned "to his fate" following a verdict from the medical experts that he was neglected for a "prolonged, agonizing period".

A date for the trial has not been set but the eight will stand on accounts of a legal definition of homicide characterised by negligence committed in the knowledge that it may lead to a person's death.

They risk sentences ranging from eight to 25 years in prison, though all of them have denied responsibility and are currently in pre-trial detention.

Gianluigi Buffon hopes his former club Juventus sign Angel Di Maria as he likened the Paris Saint-Germain attacker to Argentina great Diego Maradona.

Di Maria joined PSG from Manchester United in 2015 but is to leave the French capital at the expiration of his deal at the end of June.

Juve have reportedly offered Di Maria a one-year contract with the option of an additional one-season extension.

Reports suggest Di Maria is intent on staying in European football for just one more season, though, before playing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and returning to compete in his native Argentina.

That is said to have led to a delay in negotiations between the 34-year-old and Massimiliano Allegri's side.

Former Juve goalkeeper Buffon encouraged the Bianconeri to push the deal through for Di Maria, with the Italy legend suggesting he would be as influential in Serie A as the late, great Maradona was with Napoli.

"Di Maria in Serie A is like Maradona," Buffon said to Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Footballers must be valued considering where they play. Serie A, today, is technically poorer and Angel has so much technique.

"He is decisive in front of goal, he dribbles past his opponents. He is good at making assists and runs up and down on the pitch. He can play in different roles."

Buffon is speaking from experience, having crossed paths with Di Maria at PSG in the 2018-19 campaign.

The Parma goalkeeper also suggested Di Maria is talented enough that age should not be a factor as Juve aim to secure the winger.

"I am 44, but I still play, age doesn't matter. Motivation and passion are more important and so is determination," he added. "If Di Maria joins Juventus, it means that he's ready to do so.

"He is an exemplary professional, one who never gives up and fights during games and training sessions. For today's Serie A, he'd be like Maradona.

"At PSG, I played with Neymar, a young Kylian Mbappe, Marco Verratti… but Di Maria was not inferior to no one.

"When he won the Decima [the 10th Champions League title] at [Real] Madrid in 2014, he was playing with Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

"He was always a step back from them but knew how to play as a winger, attacking midfielder and even 'Mezzala' [a wide central midfielder in a diamond or three-man midfield].

"Whoever signs him, and I hope it's Juve, it will be a good deal. We are talking about a champion."

Lionel Messi is "on Olympus" as one of the greatest players in history, and former Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo cannot believe he brought the star to Ligue 1.

Leonardo departed at the end of the 2021-22 campaign, with former Monaco and Lille transfer guru Luis Campos joining the Ligue 1 champions as a football advisor.

Coach Mauricio Pochettino is also widely expected to be heading for the exit door after failing to deliver in the Champions League, which is the crown jewel in the eyes of PSG owners Qatar Sports Investments (QSI).

However, Pochettino and Leonardo did manage to bring Argentina great Messi to Paris at the start of the season, ending a 17-year spell with Barcelona.

Messi ranked only behind Kylian Mbappe (45) for goal involvements for PSG in Ligue 1, with the former's 20 one more than Neymar, who was the final part of an incredible frontline trio.

Only Mbappe (70) created more chances than Messi (63) as well, but the Blaugrana legend's first year in the French capital was largely viewed as somewhat underwhelming, with just six top-flight goals scored.

Nevertheless, Leonardo reflected gleefully on securing the services of the 34-year-old along with his own achievements with PSG.

"We had thought about it a lot, yes. We had talked about it, but Messi had never thought too much about leaving Barcelona," he told L'Equipe.

"It was the last moments before his arrival that were decisive. Afterwards, everything becomes a bit more normal but, you made Messi's only transfer in his career!

"Chronologically, there is Pele, Maradona, Messi. He is on Olympus.

"So when I take stock of my last three years, I see a Champions League final, a semi-final, the 10th league title, seven national trophies and I signed Messi.

"There are two very significant moments for me, even if I don't like to pick out the best. The first is the signing, on the same day, of [Marco] Verratti and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic [in 2012].

"It was no coincidence that a youngster from the Italian second division and a world football star arrived at the same time. The second is Messi. These are two huge dates."

 

Mbappe rejected the advances of Real Madrid to extend his stay with PSG, signing a lucrative three-year agreement.

Reports indicated the World Cup winner was offered assurances relating to matters on and off the pitch.

While Leonardo has departed and Pochettino appears set to follow, the former suggests he did not know whether the Mbappe agreement held such clauses.

"It was the end of the season and maybe it was the time to decide things for the future," he added. "I wasn't told that, but I don't want to get into that kind of thing.

"The fact that they've managed to hold on to that player, a Frenchman and a Parisian, is important for PSG and for Ligue 1.

"Certain things which are said internally should stay that way. It's what I've experienced with the club. When the club wants to get rid of you, there's no nice way to say it's over."

The shirt worn by Diego Maradona when he scored the "Hand of God" goal has fetched over £7million at auction, the highest price ever paid for a piece of sports memorabilia.

Maradona scored two of the most memorable goals in World Cup history to knock England out at the quarter-final stage in the 1986 tournament in Mexico.

The late, great former Argentina captain rose above Peter Shilton to knock the first in with his fist at the Azteca Stadium, with the officials failing to spot the infringement.

Moments later, he beat a series of England players with a sublime dribble on the way to scoring a magnificent solo goal as Argentina won 2-1 and went on to be crowned world champions.

England midfielder Steve Hodge ended up with the shirt after swapping with Maradona – who passed away in November 2020 – following the match.

The shirt has been on loan to the National Football Museum in Manchester, but was put up for auction at Sotheby's in London for a bidding period between April 20 to May 4, with estimators expecting it to collect around £4m.

However, the successful bid ended up being significantly higher, with Sotheby's confirming on Wednesday that the shirt went for a whopping £7,142,500.

That eye-watering total makes it the most expensive piece of sporting attire in history, with a 1928-30 road jersey of baseball icon Babe Ruth setting the previous record in 2019, going for £4.4m ($5.6m).

The shirt Diego Maradona wore in the game against England when he scored the infamous "Hand of God" goal is expected to be sold for at least £4million at auction.

Maradona scored two of the most memorable goals in World Cup history to knock the Three Lions out at the quarter-final stage in the 1986 tournament in Mexico.

The late, great former Argentina captain rose above Peter Shilton to punch his side into the lead at the Azteca Stadium and the officials failed to spot that he had handled the ball.

He then beat a host of England players before scoring a magnificent solo goal and his double was decisive as La Albiceleste won 2-1 and went on to be crowned champions.

Maradona stated that his opening goal was scored "a little with the head of Maradona, and a little with the hand of God" and felt he had gained "symbolic revenge" for the United Kingdom's victory over Argentina in the Falkland Islands War.

The mercurial Napoli legend swapped shirts with England midfielder Steve Hodge after the last-eight showdown.

The shirt has been on loan to the National Football Museum in Manchester, but will be on display at Sotheby's in London for a bidding period between April 20 to May 4 and it will not come cheap.

Brahm Wachter, head of Streetwear and modern collectables at Sotheby's, said: "The Hand of God is truly a singular moment not only in the history of sports, but in the history of the 20th century.

"The moment resonated far beyond the world of football, coming soon after the Falklands conflict, and has in turn inspired books, films, and documentaries. Maradona is now remembered as one of the greatest to ever play the game of football -- and this particular game is an instrumental part of his legacy.

"Of course, not only was 'The Hand of God' goal scored in this game, but also, the 'Goal of the Century' which is widely considered to be one of the greatest individual goals of all time."

Napoli head coach Luciano Spalletti believes Barcelona still "have the same quality" without Lionel Messi, and has also drawn comparisons between Victor Osimhen and Diego Maradona.

Spalletti's side host Barca on Thursday in the second leg of their Europa League knockout round play-off, with the tie finely poised following a 1-1 draw in the first leg, which was the Blaugrana's first appearance in Europe's secondary competition since the 2003-04 season.

In those 18 years in between, Barca have lifted the Champions League four times, with Messi playing a starring role as he amassed 672 goals across 778 appearances in all competitions.

The Argentina international departed on a free transfer at the end of last season for Paris Saint-Germain amid well-documented financial complications at Camp Nou, but Spalletti does not think Xavi's new-look side are any worse off without the forward.

He told reporters at Wednesday's pre-match news conference: "Barcelona are really strong. They had Leo Messi, but they have the same quality now, with great players everywhere on the pitch. 

"Our target is to have a team that will remain in the fans' minds. We must fight. 

"Those who fight can lose, but who doesn't even fight has lost already. We need to take risks, command and show what we want to do, otherwise they'll force us to defend deep.

"It will be a tough game, we'll have to be like soldiers in a video game. A battle to conquer a position. Earn space, or you'll be shot and die."

Spalletti suggested before the first leg that Napoli and Barcelona legend Maradona would be looking down hoping his former Italian side can secure victory.

The Italian head coach referenced the Argentine great again, this time suggesting he could see similarities between his star forward Osimhen and Maradona.

"With that header against Cagliari, he proved to have a sort of animal fury which is much-needed in key moments," he added on Osimhen, who scored a late equaliser in his last outing.

"Maradona had the same thing and somebody else should have it in our team. 

"You can see Osimhen has it when he faces his opponents. He has outstanding characteristics and some extra qualities that are not easy to find in other players.

"We can become a team worthy or Maradona. He liked spectacular football and I am sure he'd like to see it tomorrow."

Luciano Spalletti believes Diego Maradona will be looking down on his two former teams and hoping Napoli beat Barcelona on Thursday.

In the pick of the Europa League knockout round play-off ties, the Partenopei face Barca home and away over the next week.

The Blaugrana dropped into UEFA's secondary competition for the first time since 2003-04 following their elimination from the Champions League in a tough start to the season.

The Catalan side have recovered a little momentum under Xavi, however, and present a major test for Spalletti's Napoli, who are third in Serie A.

But this fixture – only previously played in the last 16 of the 2019-20 Champions League – will always be associated far more with Maradona than any modern star.

The Argentina great moved to Napoli after two years with Barca in the 1980s, enjoying the best spell of his career over seven seasons in Italy.

Twice a league champion with Napoli, Spalletti suggested on the eve of the match the late Maradona would favour his club.

Asked about injury issues in both camps, the Napoli coach said: "I don't think there will be a disadvantage for the absence of a player.

"The two squads are so well equipped that the absence of one player and the presence of another does not make a difference.

"There would be one that could make a difference, but he will watch this game from heaven.

"I am talking about Maradona, who will initially try to be 'good', but then I am convinced he will take a position and cheer for Napoli."

Lorenzo Insigne moved alongside Diego Maradona on Napoli's all-time list of leading goalscorers after hitting his 115th goal for the Serie A club.

The Italy international converted a penalty early in the second half of Sunday's 4-1 derby win against Salernitana.

That meant he joined Maradona in a tie for third place in the Napoli record books.

Dries Mertens heads that list and slotted a penalty just before half-time to give Napoli a 2-1 lead, his 144th goal for the club.

Belgium international Mertens stepped aside to allow Insigne to take responsibility for the second spot-kick in the 53rd minute.

Insigne had come on as a substitute for the start of the second half, and Mertens said: "I left the second penalty to Lorenzo because it was important to him."

Writing on Instagram after the match, Insigne expressed his delight at the victory.

He will leave at the end of the season to join Toronto FC, but the 30-year-old insisted he would always hold the club dear.

"The derbies are not played… they are won…. We continue like this until the end," Insigne wrote. "Always and forever FORZA NAPOLI."

Insigne is now six goals behind second-placed Marek Hamsik on the Napoli goalscoring list.

The late Argentina legend Maradona remains the greatest and most revered player in Napoli's history, having joined from Barcelona in 1984 and spent seven years in Naples.

He helped Napoli win league titles in 1986-87 and 1989-90 – the only Serie A championships the club have won – and his death in November sparked an outpouring of grief in the city.

Sunday's goal was Insigne's sixth goal of the season across all competitions, with Napoli's win moving them just four points behind Serie A leaders Inter.

Mertens believes Napoli can still push Inter hard for the title, saying on the club's website: "We must continue like this and look only at us. The championship is still long and we can be protagonists."

Dani Alves is ready to begin "the most important challenge" of his career when he makes his second debut for Barcelona in Tuesday's exhibition match with Boca Juniors.

The 38-year-old re-joined the club on a free transfer last month following his departure from Sao Paulo in September over a contractual dispute.

Alves, who played 391 times for Barca in his first trophy-laden spell at Camp Nou, cannot be officially registered for the Catalan giants until the January transfer window opens.

However, the Brazil international is in line to represent Blaugrana on Tuesday when they face Argentine giants Boca Juniors in the Maradona Cup in Riyadh.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference on the eve of the friendly, Alves said: "I'm feeling nervous after not being able to play and represent the club for so long.

"The most important challenge of my career has come, because of how the situation happened and the position the club is in.

"But challenges are for those who do not fear them. We will all do our best for this club and for this badge."

 

Alves won 23 trophies in eight seasons with Barca before departing in 2016 for spells with Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Sao Paulo, where he spent two years.

The club the veteran full-back has returned to five years on is a long way off competing for major honours. 

Barca exited the Champions League at the group stage last week and are eighth in LaLiga after 16 matches, but Alves is hopeful he can help the Catalans return to the top.

"We're used to seeing Barcelona at the top but we know there's a problem," he said. "We cannot hide from it, but instead look for a solution as soon as possible.

"When I arrived the first time a transformation had to be made. The situation is different but it's done and we will write a new chapter to get Barca where they are used to. 

"We have to recover the winning feeling because we live for winning. We have to change the streak. In football, there are good and bad streaks, though this is lasting a bit longer."

Barca have named a 28-man group for the meeting against Boca, with Alves joined by the likes of Gerard Pique, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho and other first-team stars.

The timing of the game, with league matches against Elche and Sevilla to come over the next eight days, has raised questions.

But while Xavi accepts the distance travelled is not ideal, he believes it is important to respect Maradona, who died from a heart attack aged 60 last November.

"These are club circumstances and is something that was previously agreed," he told reporters in Saudi Arabia. "For us it's an honour to be here representing Barcelona.

"We are paying homage to one of the best players in history. It's an honour and a privilege and it will be an emotional occasion."

Hinting at changes to the side that started the 2-2 draw with Osasuna on Sunday, Xavi added: "It will be a test for the players that don't usually play and a chance to see players that haven't played so much. We want to be at our best."

Wherever you stand on football's GOAT debate, you can't deny the legacy of Diego Maradona.

Some would place him behind Lionel Messi as Argentina's greatest ever footballer, and short of Pele in the sport's pantheon of the mighty; others would say Maradona eclipses them all. It's a debate that has raged for decades, and one that is not likely to be settled for some time.

But nobody can argue that Maradona – who died a year ago to the day at the age of 60 – produced a string of performances to rival anything the World Cup has ever witnessed in Mexico in 1986.

From the group stage to the final with West Germany, via the 'Goal of the Century' and a brazen moment of cheating, Maradona was so far above his contemporaries that the sheer idea of anyone else winning the Golden Ball was laughable.

Argentina beat South Korea, drew with Italy and defeated Bulgaria in their group, then saw off Uruguay, England and Belgium in the knockouts before a 3-2 final defeat of West Germany. 

As Opta data shows, Maradona was the beating heart of the Albiceleste's second World Cup triumph.

TAKE MY BREATH AWAY

Gary Lineker was the only player to score more goals (six) at the 1986 World Cup than Maradona (five). That's about the only category where he did not come out on top.

He added five assists to those five goals in his seven appearances, giving him the most goal involvements (10) of any player, ahead of the USSR's Igor Belanov (eight), and Lineker, Careca and Preben Elkjaer Larsen (six).

It stands to reason that Maradona also created more goalscoring chances (27) than any other player. Next on the list was France's Alain Giresse (24), then Klaus Allofs (23), Michel Platini (19) and Careca (17).

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH

Everyone, most famously West Germany, tried to man-mark Maradona out of the equation. None succeeded.

He completed 53 dribbles across the tournament, a tally that puts the rest of the competition to shame. The next highest number was recorded by USSR's Ivan Yaremchuk, who managed 16.

Of course, that kind of dazzling play will always attract a more prosaic approach from the opposition. Maradona was fouled 53 times, more than double the number of anyone else (Enzo Francescoli was next on 27 fouls won).

EDGE OF HEAVEN

Maradona's all-round impact on proceedings could only come from a player given freedom to drop deeper and seize the ball from lesser men. It's incredible, then, that he managed 44 touches in the opposition box, eight more than the next-highest on the list, Brazil's Careca. Lineker, winner of the Golden Boot, had 31 such touches.

Lineker and England have, of course, never forgotten Maradona's impact on their 2-1 quarter-final defeat in Mexico City. It was the scene of his greatest goal – a mazy, miraculous waltz through the heart of the opposition that ended with the bamboozling of goalkeeper Peter Shilton – and his crowning moment of infamy, when 'The Hand of God' punched Argentina into the lead.

Perhaps that wasn't such a one-off, though. Since 1966, no player has committed as many handballs at the World Cup as Maradona (seven) – and they're just the ones the referees spotted.

Diego Maradona dragged Argentina to World Cup glory, triumphed in Italy and Europe with Napoli and won countless individual honours.

Along the way, the footballing great – who died at the age of 60 on November 25, 2020 – scored some of the greatest goals the game has ever seen.

No matter the occasion, or indeed the opponent, Maradona was often unplayable – as can be seen from our selection of his five greatest ever goals.

 

Argentina v England (June 22, 1986)

Hailed by many as the greatest goal of all time, Maradona picked up the ball inside his own half and dribbled past four England players before calmly rounding Peter Shilton.

The moment of magic arrived four minutes after the notorious 'Hand of God' goal and helped Argentina into the semi-finals of the 1986 World Cup, a tournament which they went on to win.

Peter Reid, one of the England players that Maradona sauntered past, described the mesmerising second goal as an example of "an artist at work, at the best of his ability".

 

Argentina v Belgium (June 25, 1986)

The goal scored by Maradona three days later, this time in the semi-finals, was not too dissimilar in that he had four opposition players between himself and the goal.

He slalomed between two of them, jinked past another – in the process taking out a fourth – and fired past Jean-Marie Pfaff for his second goal of the contest.

Napoli v Juventus (November 3, 1985)

Napoli ended their 12-year wait for a league victory over rivals Juventus thanks to Maradona's brilliance of a different kind. If the previous goals were all about neat footwork and clinical finishing, this was more to do with sheer audacity.

A large wall, set five metres from the ball, was not enough to stop the Argentine maestro delicately lifting the indirect free-kick, rolled short into his path, into the one spot Stefano Tacconi could not reach.

Napoli v Hellas Verona (October 20, 1985)

This one was all about the technique - and the confidence to even think about taking it on. Maradona brought down the ball with his first touch, turned and sent a long-range drive flying over Giuliano Giuliani from a good 40 yards out.

What made it all the more special is that this strike came in a 5-0 thrashing of Hellas Verona, who were the reigning Serie A champions at the time.

Boca Juniors v River Plate (April 10, 1981)

Maradona spent a season with Boca Juniors before arriving in Europe, and it soon became clear what a talent he would become.

His first spell at the club may have been short, but he left behind plenty of memories, including a famous goal against bitter rivals River Plate. Intricate footwork in the penalty area left River helplessly bamboozled before Maradona converted from close range.

Diego Maradona enjoyed a stellar career, playing for some of the world's biggest clubs and instilling himself in World Cup folklore.

It is a year since the Argentina great died at the age of 60 after suffering a heart attack.

While his career was not shy of controversy, at his best Maradona was simply unplayable, and enjoyed success in South America and Europe, as well as on the international stage.

Stats Perform takes a look at his five greatest achievements, from World Cup success with Argentina to an era of Serie A glory with Napoli.


Bernabeu ovation

It takes something truly magnificent for Real Madrid fans to contemplate applauding a Barcelona player. Maradona delivered just that in June 1983, when he rounded Los Blancos goalkeeper Agustin and then, with the goal at his mercy, opted to sit the back-pedalling Juan Jose on the floor before tucking the ball home.

Maradona was given a standing ovation when he was later substituted – something that would not be repeated for a Barcelona player in that ground for another 22 years, when Ronaldinho was similarly honoured.

Goal of the century

Maradona's greatest goal is arguably the best in the history of the World Cup. He made the extraordinary seem easy as a matter of regularity and, on June 22, in a 2-1 quarter-final win over England, he did just that. In perhaps a summary of Maradona the man – and the player – his moment of magic followed on from possibly his most controversial act on a pitch: the 'Hand of God' goal.

Four minutes after inciting uproar in the England ranks, Maradona embarked on a mazy, remarkable run through the heart of the opposition and, within seconds, was coolly rounding England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to put Argentina into an unassailable lead.

World Cup glory

Following the win over England, 25-year-old captain Maradona led Argentina to a 2-0 semi-final victory against Belgium – scoring both goals once again – and a 3-2 triumph over West Germany in the final, as his country clinched their second World Cup crown.

Maradona finished the tournament in Mexico with five goals and a further five assists in seven games – no other player has done that since at a single edition of a World Cup.

He went on to captain his country again at the next World Cup, Italia 1990, before featuring twice in World Cup 1994, and he holds the Argentina record for the most appearances in the World Cup, with 21, ahead of Javier Mascherano (20) and Lionel Messi (19).

Triumph in Napoli

When Maradona arrived at Napoli in 1984, the club had not won a Serie A title in their 61-year history. After scoring 14 goals to help Napoli to eighth place in his first season, and netting another 11 as they finished third in his second, Maradona was the catalyst for a historic performance from the Partenopei in 1986-87.

They finished the season as champions, three points clear of bitter rivals Juventus, and the city exploded into celebrations that included an informal day of holiday to enjoy the moment. The triumph was by no means down to Maradona alone, but he is remembered as their inspiration and star.

Last-gasp joy as Albiceleste boss

Maradona's career as a head coach cut a stark contrast to his playing days, but a lack of success at the helm of Textil Mandiyu and Racing Club did not prevent him taking charge of his country in 2008. The highlight of a tumultuous two-year spell came in October 2009, when Peru came to Buenos Aires for a World Cup qualifier Argentina desperately needed to win to revive their hopes of qualifying for South Africa 2010. Maradona's decision to play Gonzalo Higuain ahead of Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero proved a shrewd one as the striker gave Argentina the lead, but Peru levelled the match in the last minute through Hernan Rengifo.

The moment called for a hero and Martin Palermo, recalled to the national team by Maradona after a 10-year absence, scored the winner deep into injury time to prompt wild celebrations on the touchline and in the stands, with the image of Maradona sliding along the rain-soaked pitch on his belly etched into the country's memory.

Franck Ribery's arrival at Salernitana was compared to Diego Maradona joining Napoli, but the veteran winger just wants to help the club retain their Serie A status. 

It was confirmed on Monday that Ribery, 38, had signed a one-year contract at the Stadio Arechi. The deal will be extended for another year if the club achieve certain sporting objectives. 

The former France international was a free agent after leaving Fiorentina, where he spent two seasons following the conclusion of a trophy-laden 12-year stint with Bayern Munich. 

He will spend 2021-22 with Salernitana, who have started their first top-flight campaign in 23 years with back-to-back defeats against Bologna and Roma. 

Salernitana sporting director Angelo Fabiani last week said Ribery could have the same impact on the club's profile as Maradona did at Napoli. 

Ribery was keen to steer clear of such hyperbole when presented to the media, though. 

"I know the director compared my arrival to that of Maradona at Napoli, but I didn't come here to talk about the titles that I won. When I'm on the field, the trophies I have lifted do not count," said Ribery. 

"I feel great and I am available to help Salernitana achieve safety. It's important to find a rhythm immediately, but I am aware that training with the team is very different to personal preparation. 

"I am a technical player, but I know the team matters and I have to help the younger players. My role in the locker room will have to be important. Communication makes the difference. 

"My mentality is completely different. I need a little time, but starting from tomorrow [Tuesday] I will join the group and I spoke with the medical staff and the coach about getting me ready. 

"The passion of the people here is incredible. I will never forget the crowd that was in the stadium for me. I still managed to get excited despite having played in the most prestigious stadiums in the world. It's up to me to repay their trust." 

Ribery has made 50 appearances in Serie A, scoring five goals and registering nine assists. Ahead of 2021-22, he was one of only five players to have scored in each of the past 17 seasons in the top five European leagues. 

The Frenchman completed 117 dribbles during his two seasons at Fiorentina. No player aged 30 or above at the end of the 2020-21 campaign had accumulated as many in the same time frame.

Fabiani added: "Ribery is an absolute phenomenon who has won everything in his career. 

"I hope that Ribery's arrival can help the team do something extraordinary." 

Salernitana are attempting to sign Franck Ribery and claim the arrival of the veteran winger could have the same impact as Diego Maradona's move to Napoli.

Ribery, now 38, is a free agent after leaving Fiorentina at the end of last season.

The former France international is clearly past his peak, having won the Champions League with Bayern Munich eight years ago, but he still scored five goals and supplied nine assists in 50 Serie A games for Fiorentina – creating 70 chances and completing 117 dribbles.

Salernitana sporting director Angelo Fabiani believes bringing in Ribery would be a coup to rank alongside Napoli's 1984 Maradona deal.

The late Argentina legend established himself as one of the greatest players of all time over seven years in Naples in the 1980s and early 1990s, winning the Partenopei's only Scudetti in 1986–87 and 1989–90.

Ribery would not be expected to win games alone as Maradona was, though.

Salernitana have already landed one eye-catching signing in the form of Simy, the forward brought in on loan from Crotone after scoring 20 league goals last season.

His shot conversion rate of 31.75 per cent was the best of all players with 10 or more goals.

Fabiani feels Salernitana have such a strong squad, despite losing their first two matches of the season, that Ribery would merely be "the cherry".

"It is true that there may be an interest in this player," he told Radio Kiss Kiss Napoli. "But to make marriages you have to have two.

"We have the idea. To find an agreement, it takes days, continuous talks. It is not even an economic problem, it is a problem of feasibility.

"Salernitana may be interested, but the player's agreement must also arrive.

"At Salernitana, there is not only Simy. We have a strong team with many players who are certainties. The squad is complete in all its departments.

"Then if a cherry comes on the cake like Ribery, it will all be worth it.

"Bringing Ribery to Salerno would be like bringing Maradona to Naples. The player would raise the global vision of football in a market like ours.

"The offer is there and the player is evaluating it. We are confident."

Lionel Messi said Argentina wanted to win a "very special match" against Chile in World Cup qualifying as Diego Maradona was honoured with a statue prior to kick-off on Thursday.

Argentina and Napoli great Maradona – widely considered to be one of football's greatest ever players – died at the age of 60 after suffering heart failure in November last year.

A World Cup winner with Argentina and two-time Serie A champion during his time at Napoli, Maradona was at the centre of a touching tribute as Messi and the La Albiceleste players gathered outside Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades to unveil a statue of the country icon before the 1-1 draw with Chile.

Messi's 24th-minute penalty was cancelled out by Alexis Sanchez 12 minutes later in Argentina's first match since Maradona's death and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner reflected on the occasion.

"It was a very special match because it was the first without Diego," Messi said after the match.

"We know what the national team meant to him, even if he wasn't in the stadium, he was always there.

"For being the first without him and because of everything that is happening in the country and in the world. It is also a pity that there was no public.

"We wanted to give Diego the victory and represent the national team as he always did, leaving everything behind, but we have to continue."

Messi improved his internationally tally to 72 goals thanks to his spot-kick after Argentina team-mate Lautaro Martinez was adjudged to have been fouled by Chile's Guillermo Maripan following a VAR review.

Chile star Sanchez equalised before half-time to earn a share of the spoils, though Argentina remain undefeated through five games on the road to Qatar 2022.

Messi came close to restoring Argentina's lead on numerous occasions, including a free-kick that struck the post inside the final 10 minutes on home soil.

The superstar captain had the second most touches in the game (87) behind team-mate Rodrigo De Paul (106), while Messi recorded the most shots (five), created the most chances (two) and disputed the most duels (17).

"It has been a long time since we got together, it is not easy to get back together with little work," said Messi, whose Argentina are 12 games unbeaten as they gear up for the Copa America, which is scheduled to start on June 13. "We continued what we had been doing, at times we were good, we played a good game.

"We were good in pressure and recovery, they practically did not create situations If it hadn't been for the stopped ball, they were hardly reaching us. It was a difficult game, as always with Chile."

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