There have been two occasions when Lothar Matthaus could have cashed in rather handsomely on his friendship with Diego Maradona.
The first, in 1986, involved a bag bursting with Deutsche marks beneath a table in a Munich restaurant. The second, just a few weeks ago, concerned the jersey worn by the late Argentina legend in the Mexico ’86 World Cup final, in which Matthaus and West Germany were beaten 3-2.
Steve Hodge, the England midfielder who had Maradona’s shirt from the ‘Hand of God’ quarter-final, sold that fabled top in May for a world-record £7.1million. He called it, say friends, his ‘pension fund’.
So was Matthaus, at 61, not tempted to trade in the framed shirt which had hung in the Bavarian home from which he now talks to Sportsmail exchanged with Maradona at half-time in the Azteca Stadium for a sum almost certain to safeguard the financial future of his four children, and perhaps even theirs?
‘No,’ he says, unflinching, having last month returned the jersey to the Argentine ambassador in Madrid. ‘In 36 years, I was never thinking, ‘I want money for this shirt’. It was a pleasure for me to give it back to the people of Argentina.’
In Maradona’s autobiography, he said that Matthaus was his greatest opponent. That, it seems, was payment enough.
‘I will never, and have never, had a greater compliment. Diego was the greatest of my time. No person on earth had done what he made possible with a football.
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‘We played in each other’s farewell games, but only once in the same team, Michel Platini’s farewell match in Seville in 1988. He gave me the pass for my goal. Afterwards, we had an unforgettable night on the beers.
‘Diego is a god in Argentina, that is why it was special to give them the jersey.’
Matthaus, it should be noted, is a Ballon d’Or and World Cup winner who is now a prominent TV pundit in Germany.