“A very sad day for all Argentines and football,” Messi wrote on Instagram. “He has left us but he will never leave us because Diego is eternal. I will keep all the beautiful moments that I lived with him and would like to send my condolences to all his family and friends. RIP.”
Messi and Maradona have often been compared in the debate about who was the greatest footballer of all time.
Both players are icons in Argentina and have been likened to each other due to their global status, dribbling style and famous number 10 shirts.
Maradona was also Messi's coach during his brief time in charge of the national team, which included Argentina being thrashed by Germany in the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals.
A banner held up during 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 25, 2014. Photo: AFP
Maradona spent two years at Barcelona, where Messi is now captain and the club's all-time top scorer, although Maradona's greatest years were spent with Napoli in Italy.
Asked about Maradona in 2010, Messi said: “Even if I played for a million years, I'd never come close to Maradona. Not that I'd want to anyway. He's the greatest there's ever been.”