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Maradona heirs say Golden Ball trophy was stolen, want auction stopped

Diego Maradona - Getty Images

PARIS (AP) — Diego Maradona's heirs will file a lawsuit to try to stop the auction of a trophy he was awarded after the 1986 World Cup won by Argentina, their lawyer told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The Golden Ball trophy rewarding the best player of the tournament had been missing for decades after it disappeared in unclear circumstances and only recently resurfaced. It is set to be auctioned in Paris next month, the Aguttes auction house said last week.

Maradona, who died in 2020 at age 60, captained Argentina in its 3-2 win over West Germany in the 1986 final in Mexico City. The “Hand of God” goal and the “Goal of the Century” came in a 2-1 win over England in the quarterfinals.

Maradona’s heirs say the trophy was stolen and claim the current owner cannot be entitled to sell it.

Gilles Moreu, a lawyer working with Paradox Lawyers firm, said he will file an urgent request to the president of the Nanterre judicial court near Paris to have the Golden Ball withdrawn from the auction. He told the AP he will also request a judicial sequestration of the trophy and file a complaint for theft and concealed theft.

Aguttes said the trophy reappeared in 2016 among other lots that were acquired from a private collection at auction in Paris.

Maradona received the award in 1986 at a ceremony at the Lido cabaret on the Champs-Élysées. It subsequently disappeared, giving rise to rumors.

Some say it was lost during a poker game or sold to pay off debts, Aguttes said. Others say Maradona stored it in a safe in a Naples bank that was robbed by local gangsters in 1989, when he played in the Italian league. Maradona’s heirs believe it was stolen from the bank.

Moreu, who represents two daughters of Maradona, say the heirs found out only recently that the trophy had been stolen. According to the lawyer, Maradona's family wants the sale to be banned because it believes the Golden Ball belongs to them.

Moreu said he was contacted by an Argentine colleague after the two daughters discussed the matter with the other heirs, who gave their approval to the legal action.

The auction house's argument is that the person who bought the trophy years ago was not aware it had been stolen.

“If the owner of an object can claim ownership under French law, it is on the obvious condition that his or her good faith cannot be called into question,” the Paradox Lawyers firm said in a statement to the AP. “This cannot be the case for the owner of a trophy that was famously stolen from Diego Maradona and whose heirs can legally claim ownership.”

Moreu said, “It doesn’t appear that the seller contacted Diego, which wasn’t that complicated.”

Aguttes, which had said when the auction was announced that it expects the trophy “to fetch millions due to its uniqueness,” told the AP it carried out “all necessary research and checked on the databases, as well as with the French and Italian authorities.”

"The result is that, to date, there is no evidence to challenge the good faith and ownership of our seller,” Maximilien Aguttes said.

Bidders will be asked to make a deposit of 150,000 euros ($161,000) to participate in the June 6 auction.

The Hand of God goal came when Maradona punched the ball into England’s net. Four minutes later, he weaved through England’s midfield and defense and past goalkeeper Peter Shilton for what FIFA later declared the greatest goal in World Cup history.


Petrequin reported from Montpellier, France.


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