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John McEnroe, Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic are no strangers cameramen and autograph hunters following them around, but they had never experienced anything like this.

When Diego Maradona – arguably the world’s greatest and most famous footballer – arrived in Novi, Croatia for a charity football match on the court that the Novi Classics had been played on, it was bedlam.

The Argentine was helping to fund a development in Novi for homeless children in Croatia, and his mere presence was magnetic.

Since leaving hospital earlier this year, Maradona has lost more than 20kgs in weight, and is beginning to look something like his old self. When he volleyed a goal inside the first five minutes of the match, it was just like old times.

Maradona lined up alongside Ivanisevic and former Croatian World Cup star Davor Suker, with another Croatian footballing hero – Zvonimir Boban – joining up with Thomas Muster, Cedric Pioline, Andrea Gaudenzi and Emilio Sanchez on the opposing team.

With the injured Boris Becker acting as a special referee, the match went to a penalty shootout. Maradona’s team eventually lost when Suker casually chipped his penalty into the arms of the goalkeeper.

McEnroe, who chose to watch from the sidelines, met Maradona for the first time. Afterwards, he regretted not taking part.

“I think Diego might have played me through a couple of times, so maybe I should have played,” he said.

“I love the fact that the Croatians are so into their sport. They built a football pitch on top of the tennis court. It’s fantastic. What will they think of next?”

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