Diego Armando Maradona was the strongest footballer, together with Pele, who has ever walked a football field. For technical qualities, athleticism and charisma he left his mark and an indelible memory in all those who love football.
He was born in Argentina in Lanus on 10/30/1960, from a very poor and numerous family, he has five sisters and two brothers, who like him will become footballers. He has Italian and Croatian ancestry from his maternal grandfather. He started playing football in Estrella Roja, a team in which his father was manager. At the age of 10 he auditioned with Argentinos Juniors in Buenos Aires and was immediately taken. With him the youth team reached a streak of 136 consecutive useful results.
His first professional game, in the first team, came against Talleres 10 days before his 16th birthday. He was the youngest Argentine footballer ever to debut in Serie A. From the first game he pointed out his enormous technical qualities. He began to play pieces of the game until he became an immovable owner.
His first goals came already in the first matches, exactly against San Lorenzo where he scored twice. In 1978 he became the league’s top scorer with 22 goals, including one from the midfield spot after kick-off. In 1979 and 1980 he won the South American Ballon d’Or, the prize that goes to the best player on the continent.
Boca Juniors and Barcellona
In 1981 he was bought by Boca Juniors, a club his father supported, for a sum of 2 million dollars plus five players (Salinas, Santos, Bordon, Zanabria and Randazzo) who went to Argentinos. His first match with Boca Juniors was against Talleres which finished 4-1 with brace from Maradona. In that championship in 40 games he scored 28 goals that led Boca to conquer the championship.
The following year, due to economic problems, Boca Juniors had to deprive themselves of Maradona, not being able to pay for his permanent transfer to Argentinos Juniors, in fact Maradona had arrived on loan. Barcelona took advantage of this situation and bought him for 1.2 million pesetas equal to 12 billion lire.
On June 5, 1982, after the Spanish World Cup, he became a Barcelona footballer. The first period in Catalan soil was difficult because he got hepatitis and he had to stay out for three months. At the end of the season Barcelona finished fourth and won the Copa del Rey, in the finals Maradona scored 1 goal in both. In the 1983/1984 season with the Argentine coach Cesar Luis Menotti things started well and in September in the Cup Winners’ Cup match against the German side Magdeburg, Maradona scored a hat-trick, the match ended 5-1.
In the championship on the fourth day during Barcelona-Athletic Bilbao he was fouled by the Basque defender Goikoetxea which caused him a serious injury and had to be out for several months. Returning at the beginning of 1984, he contributed to a series of positive results for the team which however were not enough to win the championship which went to Real Madrid.
In May, the final of the Copa del Rey was played between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao and it was an opportunity for Maradona to meet Goikketxea again. At the end of the match, won by the Basques, Maradona pounced on the Basque player from which a gigantic brawl was born involving all the players. The Argentine later apologized to King Juan Carlos for what had happened.
Arrival in Naples
Fully recovered from the injury, Maradona was signed by Napoli following a very complex negotiation for 13 and a half billion lire. The contract was signed without the Neapolitan team having sufficient liquidity and was only subsequently regularized. On 5 July 1984 it was presented at the San Paolo stadium and was welcomed by 80,000 people.
In the first season Napoli finished in the middle of the table, while in the second season they finished third. In the 1986/87 season under the guidance of the coach Ottavio Bianchi, Napoli with Maradona, fresh from the victory in the Mexican World Cup, won his first championship. It was the year in which he won against Juventus at the Turin municipal after 32 years. After the scudetto he also conquered the Italian cup by winning all thirteen games played, beating Atalanta 3-1 in the final. Up to that point only Grande Torino and Juventus had managed the Scudetto/Cup combination.
In the following season, Napoli participated in the Champions Cup and were eliminated by Real Madrid, while in the league they finished second behind Milan, after they had had a 5-point lead over the Rossoneri and lost four games out of their last five. Despite this Maradona was the top scorer with 15 goals.
In the 1989 season, Napoli finished second in the league, behind record-breaking Inter, reached the final of the Italian cup and won the UEFA Cup against Stuttgart in a double final, needless to say that Maradona was the star of both matches. During the summer of 1989 Maradona was about to move to Marseille, the contract was also signed, but in the end the president Ferlaino did not sign for the transfer and so he remained in Naples.
In the 1989/90 season, the Napoli coach became Albertino Bigon. Maradona did not play the first games, replaced by the young talent Gianfranco Zola. When the Argentine resumed his place in the team, he dragged it to victory for his second scudetto. The following season began with victory in the Italian super cup against Juventus beaten 5-1.
Instead in the championship he started badly getting just 1 point in the first three days and there were also problems in the Champions Cup in the match with Spartak Moscow which saw the Neapolitans eliminated on penalties. On that occasion, controversy broke out because Maradona did not arrive in Russia with the team but rather chartered a private plane and made most people say that he had problems in life off the pitch.
The experience in Italy with Napoli ended on 17 March 1991 after an anti-doping control in the match against Bari, where he was found positive for cocaine. Napoli finished seventh in the league and Maradona suffered a year and a half disqualification. His story at Napoli ended after 188 appearances, 81 goals scored, 2 championships won, a Super Cup and a UEFA Cup.
After the suspension he moved to Sevilla for 7.5 million dollars. His stay in the Spanish city lasted only one season, after totalizing 25 appearances and scoring 5 goals. Maradona after this experience returned to Argentina in Newell’s Old Boys, but after just 5 games he asked for the termination of the
Diego Armando Maradona and the National Team
His first international game was on 27 February 1977 at the age of 16 in a friendly match against Hungary. However, he was not called to the national team which the following year won the World Cup played in Argentina. Immediately after the World Cup he became the owner of the national team and from there for about 15 years he was the absolute protagonist. He participated in the 1982 World Cup in Spain where he collected 5 appearances scoring 2 goals and a red card in the match against Brazil in the quarter-finals.
But it was in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico that he became the great protagonist where he towed Argentina to victory. He scored 5 goals and made 5 assists in the 7 matches played in the tournament (all won except the draw with Italy in the elimination rounds). In particular, he scored two historic goals against England in the quarter-finals.
The first went down in history as “la mano de Dios” because he made it with the hand that the referee Ali Bennaceur did not see, the second as “the goal of the century”, in which he scored the 2-0 by dribbling all the opponents who tried to hinder it. This goal earned the title of the most beautiful goal scored in the history of the World Cup.
In the semifinal against Belgium he scored twice which earned them a 2-0 win and qualification for the final. In the final, the Argentines met Germany and won 3-2 with Maradona’s assist which was decisive for the winning goal. In this World Cup Maradona demonstrated how a single player could be decisive for the final victory and from that moment he became a football legend.
In 1990 Maradona participated in his third World Cup which was played in Italy and for him who played in Naples it had a particular flavor. Fate was cruel first with Italy and then with him, because in the semifinal there was the Italy-Argentina clash in Naples. The fans lined up somewhere between cheering for Italy and cheering for their idol Maradona.
The match was won by Argentina on penalties, creating a great displeasure for all the Italian fans. In the final the Argentines met Germany and during the Argentinean anthem the Italian fans booed loudly, provoking the reaction of Maradona who shouted “Italian sons of puta”. The game then ended 1-0 in favor of the Germans who scored from a penalty kick and recovered the revenge of four years earlier in Mexico.
In 1994 after he left Naples in 1991 for the doping case, Maradona prepared to face his fourth world championship which was held in the United States. At the American World Cup Argentina won the first match 4-0 against Greece and Maradona scored the third goal. In the second match they played against Nigeria and won 2-1 but Maradona was stopped again after the doping control.
A thousand controversies were unleashed in which the Argentine accused Fifa of having organized everything to oust him from the competition, after the various accusations that the Argentine champion had launched against the highest world body in previous years. That for Maradona was the swan song because immediately after he stopped playing permanently.
Stopped playing Maradona undertook the coaching business with mixed success, also coaching the national team. He worked first in Argentina and then in the Arab countries to finish the business in Mexico. In the meantime he had to face a thousand problems outside of football, which unfortunately led to his death on November 25, 2020.
We don’t want to dwell on what Maradona was off the pitch, we like to remember the player who most of all left a deep mark on football, made up of magic and plays that made the fans from all over the world. No other player has ever been as devastating on the pitch as this genius who will remain forever in the hearts of those who love this sport.