Legend is a term thrown around quite often in sport, so using it to describe the late Diego Maradona falls horribly short of the man.
After his passing of a heart attack on Wednesday, I wondered how to honour a champion that transcended sport.
Never mind football, the Argentina ace was a cultural icon.
The magic he produced on the pitch was always in contrast with the craziness as a controversial headline maker off the pitch.
He was a contradiction – cursed and praised the same.
He was a hero, a villain, a bad boy and, to some, no less than a god.
On the night of his passing, while reading tributes from sports stars and watching three documentaries about Maradona, I came to realise that his duality made him unique among the game’s greatest.
Like his personal trainer during his days at Napoli, Fernando Signorini, said: “I learnt that there was Diego and there was Maradona.
“Diego was a kid, a wonderful boy. And Maradona was a character he came up with to deal with the football business. Maradona could show no weakness.
“For Diego, I would go to the end of the world. But with Maradona, I would not take a single step.”
Diego was the boy, the youngest of seven children, born into a poor family who lived in a shack outside Buenos Aires.
Once his talent was recognised, he was supporting his whole household at the tender age of 15.
All those insecurities were hidden behind Maradona, who would take the fall under the weight of his responsibilities and the expectations of his talent.
But what hit home for me the most was his humility and the way he brought joy and dignity to his fans.
Maradona never forgot where he came from – the slums.
Football was the gift God handed to him and he used it to win.
When Maradona arrived in Naples in 1984, the people of the southern Italian city – one of the poorest in Europe after a cholera pandemic – were called the “Africans” of Italy.
Here the boy from the slum shone his brightest – hitting his highest highs and lowest lows.
But before turning Italy upside down, he would conquer the world.
In 1986, Maradona was the only star in Argentina’s team. He would have had something to prove against the Brazil of Zico and Socrates, star-studded West Germany, European champions France and classy Denmark and Spain.
What he did in Mexico, no footballer has come close to – winning the title almost single-handedly.
His first big test was against ageing holders Italy, scoring the equaliser in a 1-1 group-stage draw en route to the top of the pool and a win over neighbours Uruguay in the last-16.
Then came his most notorious match – the quarterfinal against England.
Maradona scored both goals in a 2-1 win, each strike showing what he was all about.
His “Hand of God” opening goal rocked the Three Lions and four minutes later he scored the most celebrated goal in World Cup history – running through the opposition from his own half before rounding the keeper and the finish.
Years later, he said of the controversy: “I stole the first goal like a thief – like I’d stolen their wallets. I scored with my hand. But when the English players came up to me and asked me to admit it, what could I say?”
After proving himself the best in the world, Maradona became an idol on two continents on his return to Serie A, winning the Scudetto twice with Napoli – still their only league titles – and the Uefa Cup.
But by the time the 1990s dawned, Maradona had overtaken Diego.
Scandal followed him everywhere – jolling, drugs or underworld – and he never regained the focus and discipline to repeat those heroics again.
And perhaps no one will.
In this day and age, no superstar is going to move to an unfancied club and make them world beaters.
Looking up to the likes of socialist and communist icons Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, no corporate football club is going to employ a political Robin Hood wannabe who “plays for glory, not money”.
In Emir Kusturica’s documentary on Maradona, he muses: “If only he could have spent his own life on the pitch, because as soon as walked off the trouble started”.
It’s this flawed nature of Maradona that makes him “one of us”.
And at the same time, his talent was truly out of this world.
His great rival Michel Platini once said of him: “What I do with a football, Maradona does with an orange.”
Lionel Messi paid tribute, saying: “Even if I played for a million years, I’d never come close to Maradona. He is the greatest there has ever been.”
And while his talent will forever be revered, I think Jurgen Klopp captured Maradona best in his farewell.
The Liverpool boss said: “Diego was a sensational guy. Maradona had lots of troubles. And I will miss them both.”
The Hand of God is now in the hands of God. RIP Maradona.