BUENOS AIRES - A long-forgotten container with hundreds of items of memorabilia from the career of late Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona could provide a treasure trove for collectors – and open a new front in the contest over his estate.
Shirts signed by Sergio Aguero, Ronaldo Nazario, Harry Kane and Hristo Stoichkov are among the memorabilia in the container, which had been in storage on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, along with balls from Barcelona, Napoli and Boca Juniors and a plaque given to him by soccer's governing body FIFA.
There are also shirts worn by Maradona himself, as well as political momentos received as gifts from the leftist leaders he so admired.
One Brazil shirt has the name Lula on the back, in reference to the former Brazilian president, and there is a letter from the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
"You have overcome the most difficult of tests for an athlete and a young man of humble origins," Castro wrote to the soccer player, who spent several years in Cuba recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.
Maradona died last month from a heart attack, aged 60.
The existence of the container with hundreds of items inside was brought to the attention of judicial authorities and the contents have been catalogued by officials, a source close to Maradona's family told Reuters.
"There is only one key to the container and it is with judicial officials," the source said.
The booty could turbocharge the legal battles under way over the spoils of an estate that Forbes magazine estimated was worth between $10 million and $40 million.
Maradona has five recognised children and six others with claims to be his offspring. They, along with former partners and business associates, are among those with claims to part of his fortune.
The value of the pieces is impossible to gauge but the sports memorabilia business is a booming one and Maradona, who is widely held to be one of the greatest soccer players of all time, one of the world's most iconic names.
An American expert last month told Reuters the shirt worn by the Argentine when he scored his famous "Hand Of God" goal against England at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico could be worth up to $2 million.
Maradona is also known to have left real estate, luxury cars and jewels accrued during time spent playing and coaching in Argentina, Spain, Italy, the UAE, Belarus and Mexico.
"Inside the container there are historic boots and shirts, a letter signed by Fidel Castro, a guitar from (singer) Andres Calamaro and two safes," Mario Baudry, the lawyer representing Maradona's son Dieguito Fernando, told Reuters.
"Diego asked me to find the container and said that everything in it was for Dieguito," he added. "But there’s nothing written down officially, so it corresponds to all the children equally." (Reporting by Ramiro Scandolo in Buenos Aires; writing by Andrew Downie in London Editing by Alexandra Hudson)