Maradona’s Hand of God ball that sank England fails to sell despite £2m bid

Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” ball attracted a top bid of £2m at auction, but failed to reach a reserve as negotiations with interested parties and the seller over its sale continue.

The then Argentina captain Maradona scored two unforgettable goals in the quarter-final of the 1986 World Cup to beat England at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

Maradona controversially punched the opener beyond the England goalkeeper Peter Shilton – which the referee allowed to stand – before scoring a superb individual effort, later voted Goal of the Century.

The Argentina playmaker, who died aged 60 in November 2020, claimed his contentious opening goal was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”. Gary Lineker, the 1986 Golden Boot winner, halved the deficit late on with his sixth goal of the tournament. England, though, were knocked out of the tournament after losing 2-1, with Argentina going on to become world champions following victory against West Germany in the final.

The Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser, who took charge of the tie, owned the ball, which was included as one of more than 300 lots put up for sale by Graham Budd Auctions on Wednesday, with the initial estimate having been between £2.5m and £3m.

The bidding started at £1.4m and eventually reached £2m but it is understood a reserve price was not met. Negotiations are continuing between the seller and interested parties, with an agreement still fully expected to be reached.

Maradona’s shirt from the match, which belonged to the England midfielder Steve Hodge, fetched a record-breaking £7.1m at auction in May, having only been expected to achieve around 4m.

Before the auction, Bin Nasser said he felt it was the right time to share the item with the world and expressed hope the buyer would put it on public display. Speaking of the handball goal, the Tunisian match official said: “I couldn’t see the incident clearly. The two players, Shilton and Maradona, were facing me from behind.

“As per Fifa’s instructions issued before the tournament I looked to my linesman for confirmation of the validity of the goal – he made his way back to the halfway line indicating he was satisfied that the goal should stand. At the end of the match the England head coach Bobby Robson said to me: ‘You did a good job, but the linesman was irresponsible.’”