The news fell like a hammer blow to a nation beaten down by months of economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, but one where soccer is seen as a panacea for all ills.
At 10:00 pm Buenos Aires exploded in cheers, horns, sirens and lights for the man who famously wore the number 10, after a viral social media message called for "one last applause."
The homage resounded throughout the night in all the neighborhoods of the Argentine capital, AFP correspondents said.
At the Diego Maradona stadium, home to the Argentinos Juniors club where Maradona played as a child and made his debut as a professional player, fireworks were launched as a large crowd flooded into the field to the cry of "Maradooo, Maradooo."
Club where Maradona's genius was forged
Earlier, fans searching for a place to grieve gravitated towards the Obelisk landmark in downtown Buenos Aires -- and, of course, the Bombonera, the steep-sided cauldron of a stadium that is home to Boca Juniors, where Maradona's genius was forged.
"I can't believe it. It's incredible. One thinks one gets through any storm, but no, everyone ends up being mortal. It feels like a bad dream. A joke," Francisco Salaverry, 28, told AFP.
President Alberto Fernandez's message for great one
"Today's a bad day. A very sad day for all Argentines," President Alberto Fernandez summed up in an interview with sports channel TyC, after declaring three days of national mourning.
All around the city, the mourning had already begun as fans stood forlornly beside banners in homage to the Number 10, showing Maradona -- who died aged 60 of a heart attack -- in his dashing prime.
Many of the banners simply said D10S, a play on the Spanish word "dios" for "God" that includes Maradona's jersey number.
Maradona: The God!
If soccer is a religion in Argentina, then Maradona really was its God -- especially for the founders of the Maradonian Church, a mostly internet-based group that uses religious language to venerate the player.
Around 1,000 people answered the "Church" call for fans to gather in his honor at the Obelisk at 6:00 pm, a traditional rallying point in central Buenos Aires for soccer celebrations.
"I prefer not to speak. I'm going to the Obelisk today," said Guillermo Rodriguez, a lifelong fan who gave himself a tattoo of his idol on October 30th to celebrate Maradona's 60th birthday.
King of Napoli
It was in Naples where Maradona would enchant an entire city by leading the then unfashionable Napoli to their only two Italian league titles in 1987 and 1990, befriending a mafia family along the way.
"Always in our hearts. Ciao Diego," Napoli tweeted, while the club's president and Naples' mayor both called for Napoli's Stadio San Paolo to be renamed after Maradona.