The mythical Argentine goalkeeper (76 years old) had a good relationship with Maradona, who saw him as an older brother. Gatti tells us how his death has impacted him
How did you hear the news of Maradona's death?
I was on the grill, about to eat the barbecue with my wife. The newscast that was in the background comes out and they say that Diego has left us. At first I told myself that it was not possible. I could'nt believe it. They said that the operation was fine, that it was improving. It caught my attention because now it was not expected, but …
Let's be honest, it was a death foretold. Unfortunately, Diego had already been on the threshold of death other times and he always came forward because of that strength he had inside. He could handle everything, like when he played. But although we knew it could happen, it was a very hard blow for all of Argentina.
What do you think happened?
Diego gave up. In the end he gave himself up. I was kind of depressed. It makes me laugh that the doctors said that everything was under control after the operation. They drilled his head! And look that he could with everything. I myself have seen him dead before and he always got up. I remember when it happened in Punta del Este. I was on vacation with my family there and I could see it with my eyes. Was dead. But Diego said no. However, this November 25 was D-Day, it was written. The same day as his friend Fidel Castro. That was Diego.
The funeral with his coffin in the Casa Rosada is at the level of a Head of State. More than a million people have passed by to say goodbye to him. It is a legend…
These things can only be achieved by him. In the history of Argentina, I only think that one can speak of something similar with the two symbols of Peronism, Juan and Evita, and of course Carlos Gardel. The four of them are Argentina. They are all together up there. What I have seen since yesterday will never be repeated with any other Argentine. When they tell me about Messi, I say that of course he is an incredible footballer and a source of pride for my country, but nobody else will have the charisma and the feeling that there is and will always be for Diego. No one can beat Maradona.
It is shocking that despite leading a life uncontrolled by addictions, Argentines love him as if he had been exemplary.
It is that Diego made this nation so happy that everything has been forgiven. The difference with respect to Pelé or Di Stéfano is that when Maradona retired he prolonged his fame for his personal life. He liked to be in all the controversies and was always the protagonist of everything. In that second life it was a total revolution, everything he did was news. Despite his problems, he loved each other very much. He was happy in his own way and even that was different.
But he couldn't say goodbye.
He died asleep. He stopped fighting. That cocktail of pills that he had to take every day to cure his addictions takes its toll, and his heart has been in danger for years. He couldn't take it anymore and surrendered.
Let's talk about the soccer player Maradona. You suffered it when you were a child who dazzled in Argentinos Juniors …
I was Boca's goalkeeper. It all came from a week before we faced each other. I said that although at that time he was skinny, Diego would end up being a chubby boy. He had a fat ass. Time proved me right. But it shouldn't have suited him very well (smiles).
Well, we played and he scored four goals for me. Diego was running in the air. What a player…
And when did they speak?
Only two months later. He signed for Boca. We were concentrated in La Candela and they took Maradona there to join the group. He didn't dare go in because he was actually a shy boy, hiding behind the ball. Maybe he thought that as a veteran he was going to say something to him for the four goals. Jorge Cyterszpiler, who was his agent, told me what was happening. I decided to go out and get him. From there we made a wonderful friendship.
At that time, South American players were not counted for the Ballon d'Or.
If the award had been global as now, Maradona would have won more Ballons d'Or than Messi and Cristiano. Diego right now would have no rival. They kicked him, the ball weighed like a stone, and the fields were muddy and full of holes. And yet he ran in the air, he had the school of the rogue, of the paddock.
What is your historic football podium?
Pelé, Di Stéfano and Maradona.
How is Argentina going to overcome this?
It will not. My country has been suffering a severe economic crisis for several years, then this cursed bug arrived that has fallen on us and now Diego is leaving us. The important thing is that Maradona will always be alive for the Argentines. That's why it's a legend …