Antonio Cabrini has apologised for saying Diego Maradona would still be alive if he'd played for Juventus, insisting he never meant to offend Napoli supporters.
The football world mourned the loss of one of the greatest players in history after Maradona was pronounced dead at the age of 60 on Wednesday.
The Argentina legend passed away after suffering a heart attack at his home in Tigres, Buenos Aires, where he had been in recovery after undergoing successful brain surgery.
Ex-Juventus defender Cabrini, who played against Maradona at both the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals, paid tribute to his old adversary after hearing the news, but sparked controversy by suggesting he would have lived longer had he chosen to ply his trade in Turin instead of Naples at club level.
“A living legend and a gentleman opponent,” Cabrini told Irpinia TV. “Who, like many other champions, was able to give the best and the worst at the same time.
“Maradona on the pitch could have won a match alone and in another environment, he could have won the match of his life which ended too soon.
“He would still be here with us if he came to Juve because the environment would have saved him, not the club but the environment itself.
“The love of Naples was as strong and authentic as it was ill. Naples loved him madly, but it was a 'sick love'. It was like a mother's unconditional love for a son who makes a mistake, but to whom everything is forgiven.
“Maradona transcended football and Naples chose him, regardless of any vice, as a saint to venerate.”
Napoli have already decided to rename the Stadio San Paolo in honour of Maradona, who inspired the club to their only two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990 while scoring a total of 115 goals in 259 games.
Cabrini has now said sorry for causing offence to the city that will forever remember the former Argentina international as it's favourite son, but also said that his words had been taken out of context by the media.
“You misinterpreted my words, it was not a moral judgment but a comment on the energy of a city that couldn’t contain this passion,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I thought that the quieter environment in which I lived at Juve would perhaps have protected him. I apologise to anyone who felt offended.”