KEY POINTS

  • Diego Maradona suffered a heart attack Wednesday
  • He underwent successful surgery earlier this month
  • Three days of national mourning has been declared in Argentina

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Pele were among the first celebrities to pay tribute to Diego Maradona, who died Wednesday at the age of 60.

"A very sad day for all Argentines and for football. He leaves us but does not go away, because Diego is eternal. I keep all the beautiful moments lived with him and I wanted to take the opportunity to send my condolences to all his family and friends. RIP," FC Barcelona captain Messi wrote on Instagram.

Regarded as one of the greatest soccer players, Maradona was hospitalized earlier this month after undergoing surgery for a blood clot on the brain. The surgery was successful but, just weeks later, he suffered a heart attack at his Buenos Aires home, according to reports.

Maradona, who captained Argentina to the 1986 World Cup win, scored the famous "Hand of God" goal against England in the quarter-finals.

Among many others, Brazilian football great Pele also mourned his fellow legend, saying he hoped they would "play together in the sky" one day.

"Sad news today. I have lost a dear friend, and the world has lost a legend. There is much more to say, but for now, may God give his family strength. One day, I hope, we will play soccer together in the sky," Pele wrote on Instagram, with a picture of Maradona hoisting the World Cup trophy in 1986.

Pele and Maradona, who often competed for the title of the best soccer player in the sport's history, had just celebrated their 80th and 60th birthdays respectively last month.

Juventus and Portugal superstar Ronaldo also paid tribute to Maradona's eternal genius.

"Today I say goodbye to a friend and the world says goodbye to an eternal genius. One of the best ever. An unparalleled magician. He leaves too soon but leaves a legacy without limits and a void that will never be filled. Rest in peace, ace. You will never be forgotten," Ronaldo tweeted, along with a picture of himself with the Argentina great.

In a statement on social media, the Argentine Football Association expressed "its deepest sorrow for the death of our legend", adding: "You will always be in our hearts."