Paul Gascoigne has recalled amusing tales of being “tipsy” and smoking a big cigar with Diego Maradona before playing against the Argentine legend.
Maradona passed away aged 60 on Wednesday after suffering heart failure in his sleep, just weeks after undergoing a brain operation in Buenos Aires.
Gazza was invited onto Good Morning Britain to discuss his memories of Maradona, and pulled out some classic anecdotes.
Despite being two of the leading players of their era, the pair never faced off against each other in competitive action, but did meet in friendlies.
“I missed the chance to play against him for Napoli. I joined Lazio he just left,” Gazza recalled. “I played against him in a charity game. I see a little fella outside with a polka hat on and a cigar about that big.
“I just went up behind him and said can I borrow your lighter please, Diego. He just started laughing so I had a bit of a cigar with him. We played in that match [Soccer Aid] – [GMB presenter] Ben [Shepherd] played as well.”
Gascoigne was appearing on the ITV programme alongside former England teammate Peter Shilton, who was in goal when Maradona performed his infamous ‘Hand of God’ act to score.
“He [Maradona] was an icon weren’t he,” Gascoigne continued. “People go on about Hand of God, but it made Peter Shilton anyway – Shilts, it made you that goal.”
Gascoigne was only 19 years old at the time of Maradona’s starring role in the 1986 World Cup and was yet to earn his first England cap.
Fortunately he did get to meet Maradona on the pitch when both were still in their prime, and naturally there was a story to tell.
“Lazio wanted us to play [a friendly] against Seville and Maradona,” Gascoigne explained. “I wanted to play against Juventus. ‘No,’ they said, ‘the president wants Maradona’.
“‘Ok,’ I said, ‘I’ll met you at the game’.
“Obviously on the flight I had a couple of drinks. Got in the tunnel and said: ‘Diego, I’m tipsy.’
“He said: ‘It’s ok Gazza, so am I.’
“I beat about four players, scored a goal, I said: ‘Beat that.’ It had to be in Italian as he doesn’t speak English and neither do I!
“I think I said the wrong thing as after that he was amazing, what a player. My icon is Bryan Robson but around the world Diego was phenomenal in football.”
Gazza added: “For such a small guy just an incredible player. Probably the best player ever in the world.
“I watched his documentary not long ago and he was still fanatical in the dressing room as a manager. I sat there with him, me, him his wife and his family for three hours and we just had a laugh.
“Such a nice guy as well, would give his time up for anybody.”