Maradona's heirs lose court battle to block auction of World Cup Golden Ball trophy

The trophy is set to be auctioned next Thursday in Paris by the Aguttes auction house

Maradona Schumacher
AP Photo/Michael Lipchitz, File

A French court ruled the auction of a trophy awarded to the late Diego Maradona after the 1986 World Cup can go ahead as planned despite opposition from his heirs, their lawyer told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Maradona’s heirs tried to stop the auction of the Golden Ball trophy he received for being the best player of the 1986 World Cup by starting an urgent judicial procedure. Lawyer Gilles Moreu told The AP the court's ruling “was not favorable to the heirs of Diego Maradona” and said he would lodge an appeal.

The trophy is set to be auctioned next Thursday in Paris by the Aguttes auction house, which did not immediately comment on the ruling.

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.

Moreu said the president of the Nanterre court outside Paris considered the current owner of the trophy, identified as Mr. Benchaieb, “should be considered as acting in good faith.”

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

“The Ballon d’Or is a unique piece of property, which Diego Maradona’s children want back,” Moreu said. “My clients are extremely saddened by the court’s decision.”

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.

French judicial officials last week opened an investigation after they received a complaint relating to the resale of allegedly stolen goods. The Nanterre prosecutor's office told The AP that Thursday's court ruling won't have an influence on the probe, which is still ongoing.

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.”

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

Bidders will be asked to make a deposit of 150,000 euros ($161,000) to participate in the auction.

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.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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