French auction house postpones sale of Maradona trophy

The auction of a trophy awarded to the late Diego Maradona that was planned this week has been postponed, French auction house Aguttes said on Sunday amid a judicial investigation looking into the possible resale of stolen goods.

Maradona’s heirs this week failed to stop the auction of the Golden Ball trophy he received for being the best player at the 1986 World Cup after starting an urgent judicial motion. A French court ruled the auction could go ahead but the lawyer for Maradona’s heirs lodged an appeal.

“Maradona has always aroused passions, and this continues despite the recent court ruling on Thursday, which we welcome and which dismissed the heirs’ request for a ban on the sale,” Maximilien Aguttes said in a statement. “Our mission is to organize the auction in the best possible conditions, both for our seller and for the buyers. This litigious climate and these uncertainties do not allow connoisseurs to approach this acquisition calmly, and our role as a trusted third party can no longer be properly fulfilled.”

A new date for the auction has yet to be set.

French judicial officials last month opened an investigation after they received a complaint related to the resale of allegedly stolen goods. The Nanterre prosecutor’s office said the court ruling did not have an impact on the probe, which is still ongoing.

The Golden Ball was missing for decades after it disappeared in uncertain circumstances and only recently resurfaced. Maradona’s heirs say the trophy was stolen and claimed the current owner wasn’t entitled to sell it. Aguttes said the trophy reappeared in 2016 among other lots that were acquired from a private collection at auction in Paris.

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The current owner and Aguttes claimed that when he bought the trophy years ago he was not aware it had been stolen.

Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’

One of the most controversial goals in World Cup history, the ‘Hand of God’ goal in 1986 came when Diego Maradona punched the ball into England’s net during the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals.

England said the ball bounced off Maradona’s hand, not his head.

Argentina’s Diego Maradona, left, beats England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to a high ball and scores his first of two goals in a World Cup quarterfinal soccer match, in Mexico City, June 22, 1986. (AP Photo/El Grafico, Buenos Aires)

Maradona received the award in 1986 at a ceremony at the Lido cabaret on the Champs-Élysées. It subsequently disappeared, giving rise to rumors. Some say it was lost during a poker game or sold to pay off debts. Others say Maradona stored it in a safe in a Naples bank that was robbed by local gangsters in 1989 when he played in the Italian league. Maradona’s heirs believe it was stolen from the bank.

The French court ruling noted the absence of “any criminal complaint lodged by the footballer during his lifetime” in relation with a possible theft of the trophy, and noted that Maradona’s heirs did not produce any evidence that a police investigation had been carried out when it disappeared.

Maradona, who died in 2020 at age 60, captained Argentina in its 3-2 win over West Germany in the 1986 final in Mexico City. In a quarterfinal win over England he scored the “Hand of God” goal and the “Goal of the Century.”

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Aguttes said it expects the trophy “to fetch millions due to its uniqueness.”

The Hand of God goal came when Maradona punched the ball into England’s net. Four minutes later, he weaved through England’s midfield and defense and past goalkeeper Peter Shilton for what FIFA later declared the greatest goal in World Cup history. 

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