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Maradona's old rival remembers the legend as he turns 50

Argentine legend Diego Maradona turns 50 on Saturday. Though he won numerous titles with club and country, he was occasionally bested by his rivals. Deutsche Welle talks to one of them, Germany's Guido "Diego" Buchwald.

VfB Stuttgart legend Guido Buchwald played 76 games for the German national team, including one on a memorable night in Rome in 1990 when he helped Germany win the World Cup. The former defender and holding midfielder works these days as a consultant for the Japanese football association.

Deutsche Welle: How did you get the nickname "Diego"?

Guido Buchwald: It happened in 1990, in Italy, where I was charged with man-marking Diego Maradona in the final. I shut him down, and back in Germany they started to call me "Diego". He was the best in the world at that time, and because I marked him so well in that game, his name became my nickname.

Has there been a German player, other than yourself of course, who has reminded you of Maradona?

No, there's no comparison there. Diego Maradona was a player of extraordinary quality, and one who played in a South American style - a style that is quite different from the way Germans play. German players tend to be solid, very direct. We don't have the technical brilliance of a Maradona. That's not to say that we don't have excellent players too - complete players, ones who show an intensity and professionalism that not all countries produce. But an exceptional footballer, an icon like Maradona, we just don't have one.

Guido Buchwald

Guido Buchwald

And Maradona as a person? He enjoys a special status in Argentina, one in which he is beloved even though he's done things that are not exactly befitting a role model.

That's true, but remember Maradona was without a doubt the greatest player of his time, and therefore was at the same time the face of Argentina to the world. Even today he is probably the most famous person in Argentina, so you can understand his special status. Yes, I reckon that it would have been much harder for a European public to accept some of the things he's done off the field, and he would have lost some of his luster, but then again we don't have the same memories of his exploits on the field representing our country. Argentines are simply proud that he exists.

What do you think was his best quality as a player?

The fact that he had it all. He had unbelievable ball skill, he almost never lost the ball, and he always knew, before he even received the ball, where it needed to go next. Moreover, he could take over a game and decide its outcome by himself. He was a one-in-a-million talent, a guy who was given a gift from God. He had something that you can't teach, something that you just have.

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