“The worldwide football genius starts the run from the right”. That is how one of the most historical reports began, the one that ended up on the ‘goal of the century‘. Now life has taken away the “Pelusa” (fluff) from the football world, but football does not die, as some people believe, because Maradona ´s legacy will be everlasting and the ‘genius’ will not leave while their faithful have him in mind. From buenos Aires to Naples, in Sevilla and Barcelona on the way, his mark will be huge. In Argentina, an idol that goes beyond sports.
He started his career at Argentinos Juniors and he already gave away his dream at a young age: to play a World Cup with Argentina. He did not need to much time to win it, as he first did so with the U-20 in 1979, a presage of what would come later. Maradona grew as a “Cebollita” to the pace of his juggles at halftime and jumped into Boca Juniors. He disclaimed an offer from River Plate, which offered him to have the highest salary in the team, and chose Boca, which could only have him on a loan, as they were struggling economically.
FC Barcelona (1982/1984):
Diego crossed the ocean to play for Barcelona after winning the league with Boca. President Josep Lluís Núñez paid up to 1.200 millions of “pesetas” to sign the Argentinian star. Even though he already stood out globally, he did not win important trophies with Barça: 1 Spanish Cup, 1 League Cup, and 1 Spanish Super Cup. Maradona spent his time at Barça dribbling every opponent and suffering all kinds of tackles, as that was always the only way they could stop him. His last game was one of a kind, as the 1984 Spanish Cup final against Athletic Club de Bilbao turned into a total war.
Maradona´s explosion as a player took place at the 1986 World Cup held in Mexico, where Argentina earned their second World Cup trophy. His most emblematic game took place in this tournament, the quarter-finals against England, where he left his mark with a brace for the ages: first he scored the goal that we have all tried to imitate at some point, the known as “The God´s Hand”. The one where he dribbled the entire team from the midfield came afterwards, the known as “The Goal of the Century”. “The worldwide football genius starts the run from the right”and the rest of the report is history, but we must also remind the other story from that game.
The Argentina vs England was not just a football match, it was beyond the game. Argentina´s win returned the pride and honor to the nation, as the UK had beat them in the Falklands War and took the life away from a thousand Argentinians approximately. Maradona healed the wound with his performance and led his country to the semifinals in a World Cup that they would end up conquering against West Germany in the final. That is why Maradona is not just a football idol, but a national symbol.
SSC Nápoles (1984-1991):
Maradona conquered the heart from the people in Naples after the Mexico World Cup by stepping into the mud and to the pace of “Live is life”. He pulled off something that no other player could do: he gathered the crowd inside the stadium in the warm-up in order to see him juggling. He won two scudettos (87 and 90), an Italian Cup (87), a Super Cup (91) and a UEFA Cup (89). H emade the team succeed giving them the only two leagues they have won in their history and changing the club´s history. For this reason, their current San Paolo Stadium will be renamed as the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in honor to the fluff.
However, Naples fans also had time to get mad at him because he knocked out Italy in the 90´s World Cup by scoring the winning PK in the semifinals that took place at their own stadium. Germany would end up beating Argentina in the final.
Sevilla FC (1992-1993):
He was not allowed to play for a year due to a doping suspension, and coach Carlos Bilardo (the one that won the 86´World Cup with him) rescued him, as he did not have any team, and signed him for Sevilla for a season. He dragged injury issues most of the time and did not succeed at all. His relationship with Carlos broke after the second one stopped him from being substituted in a game against Real Burgos because the ’10’ was complaining about a knee injury, and forced him to stay on the field, but he ended up substituting him. That episode provoked Maradona´s exit from Sevilla and his return to the Argentinian football in order to finish his career.
His last years in Argentina (1993-1997):
Maradona returned to the Argentinian football in his last few years before retirement. First he barely played five games with the Newell´s, but that meant a lot for their fans. Then he signed for Boca, where he played for two seasons, after having to leave the Argentinian squad for the USA 1994 World Cup due to a FIFA doping suspension. His last years at Boca were a perfect end for his career, as Boca was is beloved team.
Maradona has played in different roles since he retired as a player, but he has not found stability anywhere. As a coach, his biggest achievement was to coach the Argentinian National Team at the South Africa 2010 World Cup. Apart from this, the rest have all been anecdotes and controversial public episodes like his reactions from the vip area at the Russia 2018 World Cup. That is how Maradona was, a genius on the pitch and a special man off. For us his most iconic quote was the one he pronounced at his retirement farewell on November 10th 2001: “The ball never gets dirty”.
Translated by Guillermo Bermejo.