Football: All Whites great on the 'best player of his generation'; Diego Maradona

The best of his generation and one of the best that's ever played - that's how New Zealand's greatest football remembers Diego Maradona.

Wynton Rufer played against Maradona while he was at German club side Werder Bremen.

Rufer's Bremen got the better of the Argentinian maestro at the highest level of European football, when Maradona was playing for Italian club Napoli.  

The year was 1989 and the diminutive No.10 was at the height of his career, playing for the reigning Italian and European champions. 

But on that day - Rufer and German club were the better side, as the All Whites striker scored the winner in a 3-2 victory. 

"You score the winning goal in Naples against the best player in the world - I was the headline all over Europe," Rufer tells Newshub. 

But it's what happened after the game that sticks out for the Kiwi legend.

"Our team is celebrating this unbelievable win in their stadium - I've just sprinted off to Diego and of course in the end, I got his shirt - so perhaps a bit sneaky but I'm not complaining.

"What he could do on the field - he was a magician with the ball. 

"Absolutely incredible player. Clearly for me, one of the two greatest players that ever played the game."

The 1986 World Cup in Mexico was evidence of that.

Maradona won player of the tournament and scored what's been voted the goal of the century against England in the quarter-final as witnessed by former England great Gary Linekar.

"It was the closest in my life I ever thought I ought to applaud someone else scoring a goal," he once said.

It's clear to those that played with and against him they were witnessing greatness before their eyes.

"He was head and shoulders the best player of my generation," says Rufer.

Wynton Rufer in action for Werder Breman
Wynton Rufer in action for Werder Breman Photo credit: Getty

Footballers around the world shared similar sentiments on Thursday, posting photos of them with Maradona on social media.

There was also a moment's silence before every game in the Champions League to pay tribute to the man that inspired many to play the game

While Maradona's former club in Argentina, Boca Juniors, didn't play at all, with their match against Brazilian side Internacional was postponed.

For many, he is the reason they play the game

"....on the pitch he was something unique for one or two generations," says Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

"He was a player like [that made you say] 'wow, what a player is playing right now.' 

His impact felt far and wide, including here in New Zealand.

"It's a sad day for the world game," Rufer says. 

Diego Armando Maradona was 60.