FORMER ENGLAND international goalkeeper Peter Shilton has broken ranks to criticise Diego Maradona following the Argentine legend’s death.
Maradona died, aged 60, after suffering a cardiac arrest at his home in Tigres, just north of Buenos Aires. News of his death sparked an outpouring of emotion from across the world of football.
However, Shilton has gone against the grain to criticise the South American striker for the infamous “Hand of God” goal he scored past the England shot-stopper in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup.
Maradona made headlines around the world after punching the ball over the head of Shilton in a goal he later told reporters was partly scored by the “Hand of God”.
The Argentine went on to double the Albiceleste’s lead, four minutes later, with a dizzying solo goal that saw him run from the halfway line, beating five England players, before slotting the ball past Shilton.
RIP Diego Maradona. Legendary soccer player. This goal and the commentary are A+++ pic.twitter.com/C6gUTHpia6
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) November 25, 2020
Later voted the “Goal of the Century” by football fans, the strike, coupled with Argentina’s eventual win at the 1986 finals helped enshrine Maradona’s place in football legend.
Despite this, Shilton is still irked by Maradona’s opening goal, 34 years later.
“My life has long been linked with that of Diego Maradona — and not in the way I would have liked,” he wrote in the Daily Mail.
“But I am saddened to hear of his passing at such a young age. He was undoubtedly the greatest player I ever faced and my thoughts are with his family.”
Revisiting the 1986 quarter-final, which England lost 2-1, much to the delight of Irish fans watching at home, Shilton said: "None of us expected what happened next. How could we? He challenged me for a high, looping ball, but knew he wouldn't get it with his head, so he punched it into the net. A clear offence. Cheating.
“As he ran away to celebrate he even looked back twice, as if waiting for the referee's whistle. He knew what he had done. Everybody did — apart from the referee and two linesmen.”
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And despite the sublime nature of Maradona’s second goal, Shilton remains convinced that he would never have scored it had the England team not been “reeling” from the injustice of his first.
“I don't care what anybody says, it won the game for Argentina,” he added. “He scored a brilliant second almost immediately, but we were still reeling from what had happened minutes earlier.
“For the first time in the game, we let him get a run on us and he scored. It was a great goal but we were in no doubt — without the first goal he would not have scored the second.”
Shilton never spoke to Maradona again despite several attempts to get them to appear together on television in the 42 years that followed.
Maradona, for his part, dismissed the England goalkeeper’s criticism of his actions on several occasions.
He is quoted as saying: "Shilton! You think you are the hero, the honest Shilton! Tell me, if the ball crossed just over the line, and you swept it away without the referee seeing it had gone over, would you go and tell him it was a goal?"
Even now, following the South American soccer legend’s passing, Shilton remains dismayed that he never said sorry for the incident that ended England’s World Cup hopes.
“What I don't like is that he never apologised,” said Shilton. “Never at any stage did he say he had cheated and that he would like to say sorry. Instead, he used his 'Hand of God' line.
“That wasn't right. It seems he had greatness in him but sadly no sportsmanship.”
Shilton has come in for strong criticism following the publication of his Daily Mail column, with many arguing England’s most-capped player should have reserved his remarks for a later date.
He has since taken to Twitter to pay tribute to Maradona in an apparent about-turn on his previous sentiments.
Maradona was the greatest footballer I ever played against without question, it’s so sad that in recent years he suffered with health and addiction my thoughts go out to his family this icon was taken far to soon #RIPDiego
— Peter Shilton (@Peter_Shilton) November 26, 2020
Shilton tweeted: “Maradona was the greatest footballer I ever played against without question, it’s so sad that in recent years he suffered with health and addiction my thoughts go out to his family this icon was taken far to soon #RIPDiego"