Maradona loves Fidel Castro

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Havana - Football megastar and Argentine living deity Diego Maradona has sent a message of love and admiration to former president Fidel Castro and promised to visit Cuba soon, state-run media said Saturday.

"Tell Fidel that I love him," Maradona told Cubadebate.cu, the news website where Castro publishes opinion columns on current affairs.

According to Cubadebate in a story datelined Caracas, Maradona "will travel to Havana within 30 days, and of course he'd love to see Fidel."

Maradona, one of the greatest football players in history and the controversial captain of Argentina's national team, is currently in Venezuela on the invitation of leftist President Hugo Chavez.

Maradona said that in his latest television appearances Castro seemed "very lucid, very well, contrary to what the Americans want, which is to see him dead," Cubadebate said.

"He's very much alive and that suits me well," Maradona said, speaking during a meeting with Chavez at the Miraflores presidential palace.

Maradona, 49, has been out of the media spotlight since his return from South Africa, where he took his team to the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals.

The Argentine star first visited Cuba in 1987 and spent long periods on the island in the early to mid 2000s, away from the hounding of reporters, as he received medical treatment for cocaine addiction, alcoholism and obesity.

Maradona interviewed Castro for an Argentine TV show in 2005, and gave the aging Cuban leader autographed football shirts that he wore while playing for the national squad and for Argentine team Newell's Old Boys, Cubadebate said.

Castro in turn considers Maradona "a close friend, noble, and without doubt a great athlete" who is a friend of Cuba.

Castro, nearly 84, withdrew from power in 2006 to recover from a stomach ailment. Cuba's current president is his younger brother, Raul Castro, 79.

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