Burnley boss Sean Dyche opens up on the moment he almost met childhood hero Diego Maradona

Sean Dyche will forever rue the day that he passed up the opportunity to meet childhood hero Diego Maradona.

Argentinian midfielder Diego Maradona (C) dribbles past three English defenders 22 June 1986 in Mexico City during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Argentina and England. Maradona scored two goals, the first one with his left hand as he jumped for the ball in front of goalkeeper Peter Shilton, as Argentina beat England 2-1.
Argentinian midfielder Diego Maradona (C) dribbles past three English defenders 22 June 1986 in Mexico City during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Argentina and England. Maradona scored two goals, the first one with his left hand as he jumped for the ball in front of goalkeeper Peter Shilton, as Argentina beat England 2-1.

The chance arose just over three years ago when the Burnley boss had been invited to attend the Best FIFA Football Awards at the London Palladium.

Dyche, who had just secured Premier League survival for the Clarets for the first time in the club's history, had already clocked award winner Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi at the star-studded event.

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But it was the presence of Maradona, protected by vast swatches of bodyguards, that would induce an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and veneration.

Argentina player Diego Maradona in action during a 1986 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Peru at the National Stadium on June 23, 1985 in Lima, Peru.

The Turf Moor chief, 49, had considered throwing caution to the wind and, at the risk of getting on the wrong side of the Argentinian's security, introducing himself.

However, he talked himself out of a once in a lifetime chance to meet his idol. "It was the FIFA World Awards and what a little trio there was," Dyche told the Burnley Express. "There was Maradona, Messi and Ronaldo in a group. I thought 'that ain't bad!'

"This is a true story, I was on my own, and I was very tempted, having been a child of that period, to just go over.

"But then you get that weird moment where you start to think that it could be a bit tricky, a bit awkward because he had lots of security there.

Sean Dyche, Manager of Burnley reacts after the Premier League match between Burnley and Crystal Palace at Turf Moor on November 23, 2020 in Burnley, England.

"It only takes one security guard to not recognise you and then there could be trouble! In the end I decided not to do it, but I was so tempted.

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"At the end of the day you've grown up with these figures in your life from being a child and he was the top of the top players."

He added: "It just means something different. Messi and Ronaldo are amazing, but Maradona was a star when I was a kid and it means more then.

"You're looking at these worldwide stars and you're watching them, but it just means more emotionally to see these figures and have the opportunity to meet them.

"It's a different ball game. When you're 10, 11, 12 years old and you're watching these megastars play football it just means more.

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"I can't put my finger on the reason why. I still carry that feeling now with these heroes in mind."

Dyche doesn't strike you as a man who would ever be star-struck, but the potential of meeting the Napoli legend brought out his inner-child.

Dyche - the longest-serving manager in the top flight - joked: "My brain was just telling me to 'go over', then say 'hello', shake his hand and just walk off.

"Then I thought that would be equally weird and he'd start to think 'who's that big ginger monster over there!'

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"Then Ronaldo and Messi would say 'I haven't got a clue' and then somebody would have to tap them on the shoulder and say 'he's the manager of Burnley'."

It was a chance missed. However, Dyche was able to get his hands on the shirt worn by Maradona in that 1986 World Cup quarter-final against England in Mexico.

Former England international Steve Hodge managed to swap shirts with Argentina's match-winner, who scored the 'Hand of God' goal and the 'Goal of the Century' within four minutes of each other.

Hodge's second spell at Nottingham Forest had coincided with Dyche's time at the City Ground and the midfielder was more than happy to show off his precious artefact.

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"I have actually seen and touched Maradona's shirt because Steve Hodge got that shirt from that famous 'Hand of God' game," said Dyche.

"Me and Woany used to be friends with Hodgey and he had it in his house. He showed me the actual shirt and I felt it, touched it and it is the one. You can see how small it is. It's now at the National Football Museum in Manchester."

Maradona's life was almost operatic, his artistry considered poetic. He was revered all over the world. And his career will be celebrated following his death on Wednesday.

The World Cup winner, who suffered a heart attack in Buenos Aires, embodied Argentina, whose president, Alberto Fernandez, declared three days of national mourning.

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He was widely considered to be the greatest player of all time. "He's a legend," said Dyche. "I was right in that period when he was the amazing talent that he was.

"He was a complete megastar. It was incredible to watch such a talent, we were incredibly fortunate to witness such a talented player and it's such a sad moment with his passing.

"There are so many clips of the marvellous moments he delivered. There was one that wasn't so marvelous, of course, but generally speaking I think people will remember him for the amazing moments, the way he carried teams and changed the story of their seasons. He was a top, top talent.

"My Dad told me stories of Pele, I obviously never saw him play, and then along comes Maradona and you think 'wow'. He just made football look different with the talent he had."