Tearful Carlo Ancelotti remembers old friend and ‘the best player he ever played against’ Diego Maradona before Everton’s clash with Leeds
- Carlo Ancelotti played for Roma and AC Milan against Diego Maradona’s Napoli
- The pair locked horns between 1984 and 1991 when Maradona was in his prime
- The architect of Argentina’s 1986 World Cup win died following a heart attack
There has been an outpouring of grief following the death of Diego Maradona on Wednesday and Carlo Ancelotti is one of those who holds fond memories of the Argentinian genius.
The tearful Everton manager bowed his head before being overcome with emotion towards the end of the minute’s applause before his side’s match against Leeds United on Saturday evening.
Ancelotti was an eye-catching midfielder at Roma when Maradona arrived at Napoli in 1984 following a two-year spell with Barcelona.
A tearful Carlo Ancelotti remembers his old friend Diego Maradona during a minute’s applause
The Italian kissed his glove in prayer to honour a player who was always fiercely competitive
Roma had just missed out on the title that year, while Napoli clung on to their Serie A status after finishing the season just a point above the relegation zone.
The gap closed immediately in Maradona’s first season in Italy, with Roma finishing one place above their southern rivals in seventh.
The 1985-86 season saw Roma and Napoli finish second and third respectively, before Maradona inspired Gli Azzurri to a long-awaited first Serie A title the following year under manager Ottavio Bianchi, scoring a winner at the Stadio Olimpico en route.
Following an underwhelming campaign, Ancelotti made the move to AC Milan in the summer of 1987 and tasted immediate success, pipping Napoli to the league title and claiming the club’s first piece of silverware in nine years.
Maradona would then lead Napoli to the Uefa Cup in 1989 and their second league triumph in 1990 during a golden period for Milan on the European stage as they won their second successive Champions League in those two years before Maradona joined Sevilla in 1992 after serving a 15-month drugs ban.
Speaking on Friday at the pre-match press conference, Ancelotti spoke in glowing terms about the footballing icon.
Maradona and Ancelotti on the pitch together during successful times for both Italian giants
‘He was my opponent and then he became my friend,’ Ancelotti said.
‘He was very humble and it is a big loss for football, but the memories will always be there.
‘He was a fantastic player who helped football around the world. At this time he was the best player in the world, and the best player I ever played against.
Ancelotti (middle) says Maradona was the greatest player he had faced during a 16-year career
‘He was so difficult to stop and had unbelievable quality. He never complained on the pitch.
‘I tried to stop him with strong contact but he never complained and after that we became good friends.
‘We met at events after our playing careers were finished and it was always good to spend time with him.’
Leeds came out on top at Goodison Park, with summer signing Raphinha scoring a 79th-minute winner.