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Messi pays tribute to Maradona with shirt of Argentina great

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BARCELONA: Lionel Messi paid tribute to Diego Maradona by stripping off his Barcelona top to reveal a shirt for the fallen Argentine great after he scored the final goal of a 4-0 rout of Osasuna on Sunday.

Messi celebrated his powerful strike from outside the box to cap the comfortable victory by taking off Barcelona’s blue-and-burgundy to reveal the red-and-black of Maradona’s shirt from his stint at Newell’s Old Boys. Messi then blew a kiss with both hands to the sky as he looked toward the sky.

“It was a great moment,” said Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman. “First, for the goal that Leo scored and then for the gesture he had for the death of Diego Maradona. He had surely been thinking of what he would do. For me, it was a great moment in every way.”

Messi played for Newell’s before he joined Barcelona at age 13. Maradona played five matches for Newell’s in 1994 near the end of his glorious playing career that made him a legend in his home country.

Messi had kept his head bowed during the minute of silence before kickoff at the empty Camp Nou for Maradona, who died of a heart attack on Wednesday at age 60. Maradona played for Barcelona from 1982-84.

“We have lost Diego, a world idol,” Barcelona’s Brazil forward Philippe Coutinho said. “Everyone admired him and we will all miss him. (Messi’s) tribute was beautiful.”

Coutinho also scored for Barcelona, along with Martin Braithwaite and Antoine Griezmann.

The win was only Barcelona’s second in seven league matches. But the victory for Koeman’s side may have come at the price of losing yet another defender.

Clement Lenglet hurt his lower right leg when it was unintentionally knocked by an Osasuna player in the second half. He had to be helped off by two team doctors. Barcelona was already without three other central defenders due to injury and right back Sergi Roberto.

Barcelona finished the match with midfielder Frenkie de Jong in the center of its defense alongside reserve team player Oscar Mingueza in his second game for the senior squad.

Considered by many as the best of his generation of football players, Messi has been judged, especially back home, by how his career compares to that of Maradona.

Messi shares the lower center of gravity, the diabolic dribbling skills and the ability to score eye-popping goals as Argentina’s other great No. 10. But while his life focused on football and family has kept him well clear of the addictions that ruined Maradona’s health, Messi has never been able to reproduce the 1986 World Cup Maradona led his country to, coming closest in 2014 when a Messi-led Argentina lost in the final to Germany.

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