Following Maradona's retirement, Argentina, and the world for that matter, searched in vain for someone else to fill the void.
Every "new Maradona," though, no matter how good he turned out to be, was no match for the original version.
Just when it seemed we would never see anything like Diego again, along came something a little bit different, but just as amazing.
Lionel Messi is so far ahead of his contemporaries that instead of debating his status in the modern game, the discussion has turned to his place in history.
His quicksilver dribbling and incredible ability to jink past defenders is matched by precise, cool finishing.
That lethal combination makes him not just a joy to watch, but a priceless asset on the pitch for Barcelona and Argentina.
His passing and vision is the best in world football, yet we probably won't see those traits at their most glorious until he starts to slow down later in his career.
The argument used most frequently against claims that Messi is the greatest of all time is that he has not won a World Cup.
He will likely have at least two more chances to address that fact in his career, but even if he fails to do so, the point is moot. "La Pulga" has proved himself time and time again in La Liga and, importantly, the Champions League, which is now the pinnacle of football in terms of quality if not prestige.
He has also been by far the best player in the Argentine national side for quite some time and, since Alejandro Sabella has taken over as coach, has even managed to match his awe-inspiring club form in national colors.
Messi edges Maradona as Argentina's greatest due to his uncanny ability to not just do wondrous things on a football pitch, but to do them all the time.
The last word goes to esteemed Argentine journalist Juan Pablo Varsky, who having watched both men up close, explains why he favors Messi.
"On the field, for me Messi is Maradona every single day," says Varsky.
"I saw Maradona play extraordinary matches, saw videos, I followed his career live in the stadiums... for me Messi is the best of Maradona, every single day."