By Abba Gwale
Diego Maradona ‘died poor’ with ‘almost nothing left in his bank account’, it has been claimed.
Maradona, who died from a heart attack at the age of 60 on Wednesday, squandered much of his vast fortune through a combination of a life of excess and having his money ‘stolen’ by people who took advantage of his remarkable generosity, according to a report in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
The Argentina legend, who was arguably the greatest footballer in history, raked in huge sums through contracts with brands such as Puma, as well as £15million per year through being honorary president of Dynamo Brest in Belarus and coaching stints in the Middle East, yet had less than £75,000 in his bank accounts, the report claims.
It quotes an Argentine journalist called Luis Ventura who ‘had always been close’ to Maradona as saying on television programme Fantino a la Tarde: ‘He had almost nothing left in his bank account, he died poor.’
He added: ‘(Maradona’s wealth was) squandered because of his pierced hands and largely stolen in order to trick him and empty his pockets. All they had to do was ask and he gave.’
Angelo Pisani, a lawyer who helped Maradona to fight long-standing tax evasion charges in Italy, also claimed that Maradona had very little money. ‘He lived beyond his means and was very generous,’ he said. ‘If you want to know where his money went, talk to the people who surrounded him and used him. He never had more than €100 in his pocket.’
It has also been reported that Maradona had around £33m in unpaid taxes at the time of his death. He was once forced to hand over earrings to the taxman to settle a debt and was once hit with a £40m tax bill from Italian authorities, which he denied owing. There are, however, conflicting reports of Maradona’s wealth – or lack of it.
Although Maradona died cash poor, it seems the value of his assets might have been anything but, and there is now a battle looming over his inheritance, which will shed more light on the murky state of his finances.
His estate includes ‘jewels, land, prestigious properties including an entire building and several apartments in the centre of Buenos Aires, six luxury cars including BMW, Audi and Rolls Royce, investments in Cuba and Italy, football schools in China and image rights contracts that will remain in effect even after death’, according to Corriere della Sera.
His estate could, therefore, be potentially worth up to £150m, according to reports in Argentina. ‘Everyone wants a piece of the treasure,’ the report claims. Among those set to benefit financially from Maradona’s death include his children.
Before he died one of his daughters joked that he could make up a starting XI from his children. Maradona had recognised two sons and three daughters by four different women – including his ex-wife Claudia Villafane and former long-term partner Veronica Ojeda – as his own. His recognised children are Diego Junior, 34, Jana, 23, Dalma, 32, Gianinna, 30, and Diego Fernando, seven.
His rumoured offspring include ‘The Cuban trio’ – Joana, Lu and Javielito, who were born after Maradona moved to the Caribbean island in February 2000 to fight drink and drug addictions. Santiago Lara, 19, and Magali Gil, a 23-year-old Argentinian, are among was the latest fighting to prove Maradona is their father.
But his children are in line to receive far less than they might have hoped because so much of Maradona’s cash had been siphoned off by various people in recent years, according to Ventura’s account.
Maradona’s family has also complained in recent years that they have been prevented from speaking with their father by his inner circle.
His lawyer, Matias Morla, is described as his ‘jailer’
‘I will not leave anything to the children as an inheritance, I will donate everything’ Maradona also said last year.
The Magali bombshell first emerged a month after Santiago Lara, who comes from the same Argentinian city of La Plata where Maradona managed Gimnasia y Esgrima, made a renewed TV appeal for the football legend to recognise him as his son.
Over recent years Maradona had recognised his grown-up son Diego Junior, born from an extra-marital affair with Italian model Cristina Sinagra, and 23-year-old Jana who met her dad for the first time nearly six years ago following a court fight by her mum Valeria Sabalain.
It was not immediately clear who the former Barcelona and Naples star had included in his will.
In November last year, Diego threatened to leave nothing to his children after being forced to deny he was dying.
In a video filmed from what appeared to be his home in Argentina Maradona, who has battled drink and drug addictions as well as weight problems, said: ‘I want to tell you that I’m not dying at all, that I sleep peacefully because I’m working.’
‘What I do know is that as you get older, people worry more about what you’re going to leave than what you’re doing.
‘I tell you all that I’m not going to leave anything, that I am going to donate it. I’m not going to give away everything I earned by running during my life, I’m going to donate it.’
Maradona was laid to rest after thousands of fans lined the streets of Buenos Aires to pay their respects as his coffin was driven to the cemetery.
The 1986 World Cup winner was taken to the Bella Vista cemetery on the outskirts of the capital – where his parents are buried – for a private ceremony attended by family and close friends.
Maradona died of a heart attack just two weeks after being discharged from the hospital for a bleed on his brain.
Thousands of fans packed the streets around the presidential palace where Maradona lay in state on Thursday and thousands more lined the highways in the afternoon to catch a glimpse of his hearse as it rolled past surrounded by police vehicle.