Maradona's unknown children in battle over his millions

Ex wife Claudia Villafane, Daughter Dalma, Diego Maradona Daughter Gianinna 'Maradona' film premiere in 2008
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His estate may be worth anything up to $40 million, and includes a Rolls Royce, a £300,000 diamond ring, and the rights to lucrative merchandising contracts.

But relatives of the late Diego Maradona are finding that there is one drawback to staking a claim to his inheritance - the formidable line up of rival players involved.

The Argentinian footballer, who died last month, was notorious for his complicated love life, which saw him sleep with a rumoured 8,000 women.

Before his death, his lawyers acknowledged his paternity of five children - four in Argentina and one in Italy - all of whom have now lodged claims with the Buenos Aires courts.

But with the striker having left no will, at least six others who say they are his offspring have also come forward to claim their shares.

Diego Maradona of Napoli plays with his daughter Dalma after a training at the Centro Paradiso di Soccavo
Diego Maradona of Napoli plays with his daughter Dalma after a training at the Centro Paradiso di Soccavo

And while that alone would be enough litigants to form a football team, the final showdown in court is likely to be far more crowded than that.

Also hiring lawyers are at least three ex-lovers and four of his sisters - plus a vast amount of claimants with whom he had business dealings, including fellow players and managers who claim he owes them money.

Maradona's former lawyer Mauricio Dalessandro, who worked with him for several years, said any paternity claims would require DNA evidence.

“Those who have claims must present their case because the court has DNA and is charged with verifying (the claims) of any children and seeking proof of their claims,” he added. “They must present themselves quickly."

On the face of it, Maradona was a fabulously wealthy sportsman, having earned around £2.5m per year during his heyday with Italian football club Napoli in the 1990s. He also drew in millions of pounds from endorsements, sporting rights and advertising deals with the likes of Puma, Coca-Cola, and Hublot watches.

Maradona with one of his cars
Maradona with one of his cars

While much of his assets are scattered around the world - he played and coached in countries including Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Belarus and Mexico - lawyers have so far identified five properties in Argentina, luxury jewellery, a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, and a BMW i8 worth around £140,000.

There is also a three-tonne amphibious vehicle gifted to him in Belarus, a Harry Kane shirt, and a contract that allows computer giant Komani to use Maradona's likeness in one of its football video games.

Lawyers representing family members are now expected to be in court hearings for a matter of years, rather than months, legal sources said. As well as the five children from Argentina and Italy, he is said to have four children from Cuba, where he spent years in a rehabilitation clinic for drug and alcohol abuse.

Court papers lodged in Buenos Aires suggest a 12th child has also come forward, with possibly more to follow.

Maradona's house in Buenos Aires
Maradona's house in Buenos Aires

The other major question is just how big the estate really is. While past estimates from Forbes magazine put it at anything up to $40 million, some believe it could be drastically less, citing Maradona's chaotic lifestyle and long history of tax avoidance.

In 2005, the Italian government alleged that he owed some £32m in unpaid taxes dating back to his days with Naples football club. Before his death, he also faced roughly 60 claims in civil courts in Argentina, many of them libel cases arousing from the abrasive comments he often gave in interviews.

Indeed, according to one estimate cited by the BBC, his estate could be worth less than £500,000 once all his debts were taken into account.

Nonetheless, the litigants appear not to have been deterred. Mr Dalessandro said that claims began being lodged within days of Maradona's death from a heart attack.

“I do not know if they are not hurting sufficiently or if they wanted to be the first in line," he added. "But it’s insane because everyone will be able to participate.”