Ronnie O’Sullivan has paid tribute to Diego Maradona following the death of the legendary Argentinian footballer, aged 60.

Maradona was widely recognised as one of the greatest of all time to play the game, captaining his country to World Cup glory in 1986 as a football genius on the pitch.

His skill and technical ability left a legacy of its own but for his legion of fans, of which O’Sullivan is part of, the way he played sport and lived his life stands shoulder to shoulder with his achievements.

“He’s iconic. Maradona, Muhammad Ali, Ayrton Senna – they left their mark on the world,” said O’Sullivan.

“They had the world in their hands, he was incredible.

“I’ve always said I’d rather have a short but exciting life than a long but beige life, Maradona definitely had an exciting life.

“There are probably 200 billion people that have come and gone in this world, and probably ten people in sport that have actually surpassed what we thought was humanly possible. Diego was one of them.

“It wasn’t just the way he played, it was the passion and the emotion he had.

“You just couldn’t help but be drawn into the energy he brought to the football field, let alone the skill and the mesmeric way he did it.”

O’Sullivan was speaking after his opening-round win at this year’s Betway UK Championship, overcoming Leo Fernandez 6-0 after barely an hour of playing time.

The Rocket is a seven-time champion of the Triple Crown event and won’t have played many easier matches than this one, with the Irish amateur scoring just 27 points in the opening five frames.

Breaks of 121, 60, 59 and 73 helped pave the way for O’Sullivan to reach the second round, looking to reclaim a trophy he first won as a 17-year-old in 1993.

“I felt sorry for Leo. With a lot of the lower-ranked players, it would be good if they could play against each other, win through a few rounds, earn some money and build some confidence up,” he added.

“It was tough for him. He’s a very, very good player, just needs to get on a roll and get some confidence up.

“It’s tough when you come to tournaments and don’t really win any matches. I don’t know how they do it, maybe there can be some way for them to play more games.

“I’ve had ten years where I’ve not been in the right frame of mind to win tournaments, so over a 16-year career where I’ve put some effort in, winning it seven times is quite a good return.

“I could, and probably should, have had more. The numbers might look great to everyone else, but you also look at it and wonder what could have been.”

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