In 2012, I was chatting with Minnesota Stars midfielder Lucas Rodríguez, an Argentina native, and I mentioned the Diego Maradona tattoo on his calf, assuming he simply was a fan of Argentina’s most famous player. What I got instead was evangelical passion, as — eyes widened with the fervor of the true believer — Rodríguez described just what Maradona, who died this week at age 60, meant to all Argentina and to him personally. Only a few players have ever inspired such devotion, perhaps none more so than Maradona, this most mortal of the soccer gods.

In the lists of the greats, there are those who’ve honed their talents to the sharpest possible point, like Cristiano Ronaldo. There are those whose particular combinations of power, speed, and touch made them seem superhuman — Zinedine Zidane, Mia Hamm, Thierry Henry. But there are only three whose gifts were so sublime, so otherworldly, that they seemed to rise above the level of mere Earthlings: Pelé. Messi. Maradona.

Of the three, though, Maradona was the most obviously human, if only because his on-field brilliance was matched with such profound off-field struggles and addictions. It was as if simply being good enough to carry lowly Napoli to Serie A titles in Italy, to single-handedly dragging Argentina to winning the World Cup, wasn’t enough to interest him. Maybe that’s why so many fans were so devoted. No other player was so transcendent and yet so earthy, at the same time.

Short takes

• Twins fans have to feel for Olympique Marseille. The struggling French giants set a record this week by losing their 13th consecutive match in the men’s Champions League. Making it even more insulting, OM has failed to score a goal in its four European matches this season.

• After 80 games, Lyon’s undefeated streak in France’s top women’s league is over, as Paris Saint-Germain finally triumphed in the battle of France’s two top teams. Lyon has won 14 consecutive French titles and five straight Champions League titles, so any sign that their dominance is less than permanent is a ray of hope for the rest of European women’s soccer.

WATCH GUIDE

MLS: New England at Orlando, 2 p.m., Ch. 5. With Philadelphia and Toronto, the best of the East, out of the picture, the Eastern spot in MLS Cup is wide open. Can Orlando, which made it to the finals of the MLS is Back tournament this summer, replicate that with a run to the MLS Cup Final as well?

 

Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: jmarthaler@gmail.com