Apparently a man with an Argentine accent had circulated WhatsApp voice messages saying the 57-year-old star had been hospitalised and then died of a cardiac arrest.
“I gave instructions to make public the decision to offer a reward of 300,000 pesos (around $10,000) to anyone who can provide true and accurate information about the author of the audios,” Maradona’s lawyer Matias Morla told Argentina’s Clarin daily from Russia.
The Argentine great fell ill after the game was over and had to be helped from his seat.
But Maradona denied rumors, saying – “I’m perfect. I’ve never been better.”
Morla said Maradona had suffered “a spike” in blood pressure.
“It’s a subject that at one time alarmed him. It’s no secret how he lives through a game. How he lived them as a player is how he lives them as a fan,” added Morla, who said Maradona shouldn’t even have been at the stadium for the second half.
“The doctors told him to rest, not to stay for the second half of the Argentina-Nigeria match, but asking that of Maradona is like asking a son not to love his mother.
“For Diego, the team is Dona Tota (his mother), and he will never let her on her own.”.
The audio messages went viral as soon as the game finished.
“Maradona’s sisters heard the news, they could not communicate with me nor with their brother, and one of them suffered a weakness, and the truth is that we cannot let such an outrage go by,” Morla told Clarin.
In match that failed to deliver on the hype it promised, James Rodriguez’s exit due to injury in the first half blunted proceedings and threatened to deflate Los Cafeteros.
But Barcelona defender Yerry Mina rose to head the South Americans into the lead in Samara 16 minutes from time and Jose Pekerman’s men march on.
Even crueler for the Lions of Teranga was that they became the first side to exit the World Cup via fair play – their six yellow cards compared to Japan’s four saw the Blue Samurai qualify in second.
Here are three talking points from the match:
IT’S FAR FROM FAIR ON SENEGAL
Quite how the Lions of Teranga managed not to pounce on a knockout-stage berth is bemusing after two thoroughly entertaining performances in their opening two games.
Defeat to Colombia rendered their efforts to emulate the class of 2002 a failure – thanks to the slenderest of margins.
The African side and Japan finished with identical records in Group H, winning, drawing and losing one game each and scoring four goals and also conceding four times.
With the sides split it came down to disciplinary records and you wonder how Aliou Cisse is feeling now after his side collected two more cautions in their three games compared to Japan – who sneak through to the knockout stages by the thickness of a blade on one of the swords the country is so famous for.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but M’Baye Niang might well be regretting picking up two cautions at the tournament, while Senegal stupidly collected two beyond 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw with Japan.
Bordeuax defender Youssouf Sabaly and Birmingham City midfielder Cheikh N’Doye might well be left red-faced by these two yellows, which have ultimately made the difference.
It would have been harsh on either Senegal or Japan to be the ones heading home after they had made the biggest impacts in the group overall.
Senegal won’t get to strut their stuff in the knockouts like coach Cisse did as captain of the side 16 years ago. But both he and his players can be proud of the way they’ve performed in Russia – something not a lot of the other 16 sides heading home early can say.
RODRIGUEZ INJURY A REAL BLOW
Colombia’s World Cup adventure continues but if Los Cafeteros (The Coffee Growers) are going to thrill the world like they did in Brazil four years ago, it looks like they might have to do it shorn of their star man, James Rodriguez.
The men in the golden shirts’ golden boy limped out after just half an hour of his side’s 1-0 defeat of Senegal in Samara on Thursday evening.
Coach Jose Pekerman immediately took his prized possession off, but Rodriguez’s reaction certainly didn’t look encouraging in terms of answering the question of whether he’ll feature again, with early indications suggesting the Bayern Munich schemer aggravated the calf injury that restricted him to a reserve role in that Japan defeat.
It’s a bitter blow for Rodriguez – who cut a desolate figure at times on the substitute’s bench in the second half – and Pekerman. His team played some scintillating stuff as Poland were pulverised and their World Cup campaign turned around.
They are hardly devoid of talent but there is no masking they are distinctly weaker without their wizard.
It’s fair to say that Colombia’s creator in chief is very much at home on the beautiful game’s biggest stage.
He set the world alight in Brazil and has been his country’s catalyst in Russia after they stumbled to a 2-1 defeat in their opening game, sparkling in the thrilling 3-0 win against Poland.
His two assists in that game means he has scored six goals and assisted four more in eight World Cup appearances. But Colombia might have to move on without him.
YERRY’S DISPLAYS MIGHT NOT MIN MUCH TO BARCELONA
The World Cup has provided the perfect setting for many unheralded stars to announce themselves to the planet over the years, and Colombia’s Yerry Mina has certainly grabbed his chance to shine bright.
As a Barcelona player, he may be far from an undiscovered gem, but the confusion over his club future conflicts with some superb performances at the World Cup so far.
After getting the crucial opening goal as Poland were pushed out of the tournament in the second group game, the 6ft 5in monster rose to plant an unstoppable header past brilliant Senegal stopper Khadim N’Diaye and haul his team into the knockout rounds when it very much looked like James Rodriguez’s early exit may have led to the nation leaving Russia early too.
All is not well in Catalonia though, where Mina only played 377 minutes for Barca following a high profile €11.8 million move from Palmeiras in January.
While Mina’s height is proving a mismatch in Russia, in Spain the big man’s gigantic frame denotes a lack of pace and that leaves him unsuitable to Barca’s tiki-taka approach, with Ernesto Valverde deploying a high defensive line.
But he won’t be worrying about his future with the Blaugrana for now, after notching his fifth goal in just 14 appearances for his country.
Only Santiago Arias had more touches of the ball (74) compared to Mina’s 73 against Senegal, while the giant centre-back won seven aerial duels, more than anyone on the pitch.
His 91.4 per cent pass success completion also led Colombia, as did his seven clearances (four more than anyone else), while his two tackles were also the joint most, again alongside Arias.
If Mina keeps on making an impact in Russia, he’ll have plenty of suitors this summer.
Japan are through to the World Cup round of 16 despite suffering a 1-0 loss to Poland.
Senegal’s loss to Colombia by the same scoreline meant Japan qualified ahead of the African side, winning the tiebreaker between the two sides on the slimmest of margins – going through thanks to having a better disciplinary record.
The two teams were level on goal difference and goals scored, and as the match between them on Sunday had ended in a 2-2 draw, the head-to-head tiebreaker wouldn’t separate them either, bringing FIFA’s fair play tiebreaker to the fore.
Japan had picked up four yellow cards during their three group games, while Senegal had picked up six – including two in injury time of that draw against Japan, which have now proved to be the difference.
Poland, meanwhile, bow out after a disappointing campaign, with Thursday’s win their only points at the tournament. Young centre-back Jan Bednarak’s goal from a Rafal Kurzawa’s free-kick gave them the win.
The game ended in a farce as both sides were content playing the ball amongst themselves at the back, with the result inconsequential for Poland and enough for Japan to qualify.