Diego Armando Maradona may have sadly passed away at the age of 60, but his presence in the world of football will live on for generations.
Often featuring in fierce debates over who is the best footballer to have graced the pitch – alongside the likes of Pele, George Best and Eusebio – Maradona made a massive impact during a relatively short time in the limelight.
Known for his effortless dribbles that, to many, appeared as if the ball was in fact taped to his feet, the Argentinian wizard was an absolute powerhouse on the field, despite standing at just five foot five inches tall.
Before he was hailed as FIFA’s Player of the Century alongside joint winner Pele, the nimble forward, who was blessed with the skill and pace that would leave the world’s best defenders on the floor, began his career as a teen at Agrentinos Juniors, and scored an incredible 116 goals in 167 appearances between 1976 and 1981.
After short spells at Boca Juniors and a move to the mighty Barcelona – where he bagged a very respectable 22 goals in 36 games – Maradona found his calling in Italy, where he made the surprise switch to Serie A strugglers Napoli.
His arrival in the summer of 1984 saw a staggering 75,000 fans welcome him at the Stadio San Paolo, where he made an instant impact at the club. With clubs such as Roma, Inter Milan, AC Milan, and Juventus all dominating the title race every year, the chance that this southern club could pose a challenge seemed impossible. However, with the pint-sized Argentine in the starting XI, things began to turn around; as confidence grew within the player, the knock-on effect spread to the rest of the squad, the fans, the staff, and the entire city itself.
In the 1986-87 season, Napoli did the impossible and won the league – think along the lines of Leicester City’s 2016 miraculous Premier League title win – which elevated his status to unequivocal club legend. A city worshipped him, murals of him were painted on walls, and the most iconic man in Italy would remain that way as Napoli’s captain.
In the same period, he captained Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, beating West Germany and becoming England’s sworn enemy after the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal he scored to knock Bobby Robson’s team out of the tournament.
Watch the incredible run and somewhat cheeky fist he throws up to give Argentina the lead over an outraged England:
His club finished second in the following two seasons but in the 1989-90 season regained the title, before finally moving to Spain and joining Sevilla in 1991 after becoming unhappy with life in Naples after his team knocked Italy out out of the 1990 tournament on penalties, leaving his once loyal followers bitter and hostile.
But some of his biggest moments came with an abundance of controversy, most notably when he was sent home from the 1994 World Cup in the United States after failing a drugs test. It also saw the end of his international career.
Napoli proved to be the magician’s peak years, placing him as the greatest player on the planet during his playing years in Italy. His post-Napoli playing days saw unspectacular spells at Newell’s Old Boys and a return to Boca Juniors some 13 years after leaving as a youngster.
After his retirement, he undertook a number of managerial roles, culminating in a dream spell as his country’s national manager between 2008 and 2010.
Tragically, Maradona was in charge of Argentinian side Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata when he died, having been appointed manager in September of last year.
For anyone wanting to see a more visual history of the late footballer’s life, both on and off the field, Asif Kapadia’s superlative 2019 documentary, Diego Maradona, is a compelling and informative look at the legendary player’s rise to footballing god status.
Check out the trailer below:
Rest in peace, Diego.
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