The Argentina World Cup winner and the national team’s former manager – who almost signed for Sheffield United as a 17-year-old in 1978 – had been in hospital in Buenos Aires after surgery to remove a blood clot on the brain earlier this month.
The AFA said on Twitter: “The Argentine Football Association, through its President Claudio Tapia, expresses its deepest sorrow for the death of our legend, Diego Armando Maradona. You will always be in our hearts.”
Maradona is widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time and was the inspiration for Argentina’s World Cup success in Mexico in 1986. He also led the country to the final of the 1990 tournament in Italy and managed them in South Africa in 2010.
Former Blades boss Harry Haslam came close to signing the then teenage prodigy for after agreeing a £150,000 fee, only for the deal to collapse when the military in Argentina demanded a similar fee on top to let him leave the country.
Maradona went on to play for some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Barcelona and Napoli.
The Blades, meanwhile, were relegated twice in the following three seasons.
Maradona’s successes made him a global star and a national hero in Argentina but his career was also blighted by controversies on and off the field.
His ‘Hand of God’’ goal against England in the 1986 quarter-finals, when he pushed the ball into the net with his hand, earned him infamy – although he followed up by scoring the “goal of the century”, a remarkable solo effort, in the same game.
His international playing career ended in shame when he failed a drugs test at the 1994 World Cup in the United States and he was notorious for a wayward lifestyle throughout his life. He was also banned from football in 1991 after testing positive for cocaine while playing for Napoli.
However, he remained a revered figure at the Italian club, where he won two Serie A titles.