Napoli have officially renamed their San Paolo home stadium in memory of Diego Maradona after the club legend died aged 60.
Maradona, regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, forged a strong bond with the Italian club and its supporters during his seven-year spell between 1984 and 1991.
“SSC Napoli is delighted about today’s decision by the Naples City Council to rename the Stadio San Paolo in memory of Diego Armando Maradona,” the club said in a statement released on Friday evening.
Naples city mayor Luigi De Magistris and Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis had confirmed last week that the San Paolo would be renamed, but were originally unsure whether the initial name would need to be kept as part of the title, which it ultimately was not.
“I’ve been in talks with local authorities for the past 17 years, I have always asked to buy the stadium and rename it ‘Diego Armando Maradona’,” De Laurentiis reporters in Italy. “If then, for tradition, we will need to call it both ‘San Paolo’ and ‘Maradona’ so be it.
“It won’t change much, but it’s only right that Maradona has this recognition. Even if we were to build a whole new stadium, I would name it like that.”
“I believe it is right to name the San Paolo after you, so we can keep you with us as a witness of the excellent path this team has taken,” De Laurentiis reiterated in an emotional letter addressed to the late club icon.
“Your years here remain indelible in the memories of the people of Naples – symbolic of a coveted redemption and yearned-for resurrection.”
Pele paid tribute to his fellow all-time great Maradona, saying: “One day, I hope we can play football together in the sky”.
Argentina’s all-time top goalscorer Lionel Messi wrote on Instagram: “A very sad day for all Argentines and football. He leaves us but does not leave, because Diego is eternal. I take all the good moments lived with him and send condolences to all his family and friends. RIP.”
Cristiano Ronaldo tweeted in Portuguese alongside a picture of him and Maradona: “Today I say goodbye to a friend and the world says goodbye to an eternal genius.”
Gary Lineker, who was in the England side beaten by Maradona’s Argentina in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final, led the tributes on Twitter, writing: “By some distance the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time.
“After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God. #RipDiego.”
Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford also posted a message on Twitter, while Jamie Carragher wrote: “I’ll never forget watching Diego Maradona as an 8-yr-old at the World Cup in Mexico. Never seen anything like it on that stage since. Sad news.”
“One of the best ever. An unparalleled magician. He leaves too soon, but leaves a legacy without limits and a void that will never be filled. Rest in peace, ace. You will never be forgotten.”