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AP PHOTOS: Maradona a genius on the field, a character off

On the soccer field, he was considered as a genius. Outside, he was a character known practically everywhere, by everybody.

Diego Maradona, who died Wednesday of a heart attack at age 60, started his story as a player in the Villa Fiorito neighborhood in Buenos Aires and over the decades he became a soccer great.

He debuted with Argentinos Juniors and then jumped to the mythical Boca Juniors, where in 1981 he got his first title as a professional soccer player. Then, it was off to Europe, and his legend began.

FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2005 file photo released by the Cuban government's National Information Agency (AIN), Cuban President Fidel Castro, right, meets Argentina's former soccer star Diego Maradona on the program "Mesa Redonda" in Havana, Cuba. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AINIsmael Francisco via AP)

He won three titles with the Barcelona club, becoming a world soccer figure. But Maradona won a place as one of the all-time greats when he led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title in Mexico, where he scored one of the most storied goals in soccer history — the “Hand of God” goal that helped defeat England in a quarterfinal match.

Pundits have debated about who was the best soccer player in history — whether Maradona or Pelé, the iconic Brazilian who retired in 1977 and is still alive. There has been no consensus.

Maradona and Pelé had a very good relationship until the Argentine failed a doping test and was expelled from the 1994 World Cup in the United States. Pelé criticized him and they parted ways until 2005, when they re-established a relationship.

FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2009 file photo, under the pouring rain, Argentina's coach Diego Maradona looks up under the pouring rain during a 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Peru, in Buenos Aires. Argentina won 2-1. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP PhotoNatacha Pisarenko, File)

Maradona retired in 1997, but he remained linked to soccer. He was Argentina’s team coach.

Off the field, Maradona was an outspoken personality who leaned to leftist ideology. He was a good friend of Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban revolution, and was also close to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

FILE - In this July 14, 1996 file photo released by Telam, Boca Juniors' Diego Maradona, right, and teammate Claudio Caniggia kiss as they celebrate Caniggia's goal, their team's second against River Plate, before their 4-1 victory in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (Telam via AP File)

FILE - In this March 7, 2020 file photo, Diego Maradona, coach of Gimnasia y Esgrima, sits on the bench prior to Argentina's soccer league match against Boca Juniors at La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Maradona turns 60 on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. (AP PhotoNatacha Pisarenko, File)