DIEGO: THE GOD WHO WALKED AMONG US

DIEGO: THE GOD WHO WALKED AMONG US

At 8 years old Diego Maradona was scouted off the streets of Lomas de Zamora, the tough neighbourhood in which he was raised, by scouts from the revered Argentinos Juniors youth academy. He was immediately singled out as a special talent. By 12 he was entertaining crowds with his ball juggling skills at half time of the senior teams matches. 

Ten days shy of his 16th birthday he made his debut with the first team, becoming the youngest player to ever appear in the Argentinian top flight. The next five years would see him amass 115 goals in just 167 appearances.

 

 

His stratospheric rise in the club game turned heads all over the country and within months the now 16 year old Diego would make his first debut with the national side in a friendly against Hungary. Many called for the prodigy to be included in the squad for the 1978 World Cup on home soil, authoritarian coach Cesar Menotti however decreed that at 17 he was simply too young. The following year he would make it plain to all that he was the most prodigious talent in the world at the 1979 world youth championship in Japan. He scored 6 in 6 and dazzled the crowds on the way to guiding Argentina to victory.

 

Dream move to Boca

 

 

By 1981 the now twenty year old Maradona was ready to fly the nest. For Diego the destination was clear, the boyhood Boca fan signed on the 20th February 1981 and completed the transfer for a reported 4 million dollars.

He would once again be the star as the Xeneizes claimed the league title in his first season. A year later he would once again be on the move.

 

Move to Europe

 

 

His destination would be the Camp Nou as Barcelona splashed out a record 7.6 million dollar transfer fee for his services. His first season would see the side lift the Copa del Rey as well as the Spanish super cup. Despite this success his time as the club was rocky from the start. A horror tackle from Bilbao hard man Andoni Goikoetxea in September 1983 broke his ankle which caused him to miss three months and almost put him out of the game entirely. 

The 1984 Copa del Rey final would see Diego up against Bilbao and Goikoetxea once again. After Diego suffered yet more rough treatment from the man nicknamed the ‘butcher of Bilbao’ and reported racial taunting he snapped, wildly kicking out anyone in red and white and instigating a mass brawl with the king of Spain watching on. His time in Catalonia was over.

 

Touchdown in Naples

 

 

After an overall torrid time in Spain Maradona’s destination was an unexpected one. He was off to southern Italy and to the hotbed of Italian footballing passions, Naples. With the 10.5 million dollar move he became the first player to ever break the transfer record twice. A stunned 75,000 fans packed into the San Paolo to witness his unveiling as a Napoli player as Street parties erupted across the city.

 

1986 World Cup

 

 

The 1986 World Cup would see Maradona, by this time Argentina’s captain, produce quite possibly the greatest performance the competition has ever witnessed. The numbers are extraordinary. In playing every minute of the tournament he attempted a staggering 90 dribbles, three times more than anyone else in the competition. 

 

 

His 10 goal contributions (goals + assists) meant he had a hand in 71% of all the goals Argentina scored. He also scored the greatest goal the tournament has ever seen as well as its most infamous. Following Argentina’s 3-2 final win over West Germany.Maradona became the second Argentinian captain to lift the World Cup trophy.

 

Napoli’s golden era

 

 

Maradona returned to Naples a World Cup winning captain and the success carried over to his domestic form as he captained Napoli to an historic first ever Serie A title. It was, in fact, the first title ever won by a team from the south of the country and Naples lost its collective mind. Maradona had elevated to a god like figure in the city. Mock funerals were held for Juve and Milan and the parties stretched on for weeks. 

 

 

The next few years would see him help Napoli to their third ever Coppa Italia win in 1987 before adding a second Italian title before bringing the sides first, and to date only, ever taste of continental success with their 1989 UEFA Cup win.

 

 

Despite being the catalyst for an unprecedented level of success on the pitch, cracks were starting to form. High profile addiction issues were causing Diego to become increasingly erratic, as well as driving him ever closer to the Neapolitan crime families who utilised cocaine to exercise control over him. Ultimately a 15 month ban from football following a failed drugs test would be the last straw as Maradona and Napoli parted ways  in 1991.

 

Time with Sevilla

 

 

Despite his high profile issues Maradona had plenty of suitors following his 1992 return from the ban. In the end his destination would come as yet another surprise. To the south of Spain and Sevilla, where he would ultimately play just one, somewhat unremarkable season. Hell of a sponsor, though.

 

Newell’s Old Boys

 

 

He would follow his short stint in Andalusia with an even shorter one in Rosario and Newell’s old boys. Donning the famous red and black kit just five times.

 

Return to Boca

 

 

1995 would see Diego return to the club he supported as a child, Boca juniors. 

In two years marked by generally average performances the side claimed no trophies. The 95/96 season would see him go all in for the Bond villain look as he grew out a goatee and went full colour coordination with a yellow streak in his hair.

 

 

The now 35 year old Diego, his body showing signs of age and years of abuse, nevertheless still displayed glimpses of magic and drew in sell out crowds wherever he and Boca went. Maradona finally called time on his stellar career in 1997. In truth he hadn't been the same player in the 90’s as he was in the preceding decade but for a time no player's star has shone brighter than that of Diego’s.

Diego, a living God and who's genius will never be forgotten.


 

 

 

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