Saturday 1/23/21
FAREWELL TO A LEGEND

Maradona, the most gifted and most troubled of footballers

Diego Maradona, who has died at 60, was a genius with a football at his feet. His achievements with otherwise modest Argentina and Napoli sides mark him out as one of the greatest players ever, but his demons were often apparent.

Flares are lit as fans flock to Diego Maradona's mural in Naples. Photo: Fabio Sasso/dpa.
Flares are lit as fans flock to Diego Maradona's mural in Naples. Photo: Fabio Sasso/dpa.

It is hard to say that a team won a World Cup just because of one man, but in the case of Argentina in 1986 it is probably true. Diego Armando Maradona was a footballing great and many fans will argue he should count as the best ever.

His death at the age of 60, after a life dogged by drugs and problems with his weight, will be mourned by the entire football world.

Born on October 30, 1960 in Lanus, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, he was the fifth of eight children and made his senior league debut for Argentinos Juniors just 10 days short of his 16th birthday.

Maradona became Argentina's youngest-ever international when he made his debut on February 27, 1977 against Hungary at the age of 16.

25 November 2020, Argentina, Buenos Aires: People place flowers and candles in front of a mural depicting the Argentinian legend Diego Mardona outside the Argentinos Juniors football club, where Maradona started his career. Argentina football great Diego Maradona has died at the age of 60, the Argentinian Football Association said on Wednesday. Photo: Carol Smiljan/ZUMA Wire/dpa.

People place flowers and candles in front of a mural depicting Maradona outside the Argentinos Juniors football club, where his career started. Photo: Carol Smiljan.

Although the young Maradona failed to make the senior squad for the 1978 World Cup, which Argentina won as hosts, he went on to help his country to victory at the World Youth Cup in Japan a year later.

He would earn 91 caps for his country, scoring 34 goals and leading Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986 in Mexico, where he netted five times, including the infamous 'Hand of God' goal against England in the quarter-finals.

His second goal in that game, where he ran through England's defence at will, is classed by many fans as the greatest goal ever.

Argentina later beat West Germany 3-2 in the final.

Boca, Barcelona, Napoli

Domestically, he won the Argentinian title with Boca Juniors in 1981 before moving to Barcelona in 1982.

After two injury-plagued seasons at the Catalan giants where he won the Spanish Cup in 1983, Maradona moved to Italian club Napoli in 1984 in a deal worth around 12 million dollars.

Maradona helped Napoli to their first Serie A title in 1987 and the club to their only European triumph - a 2-1 UEFA Cup final victory over VfB Stuttgart - two years later.

He won his second Scudetto with Napoli in 1990, still the only two Italian top-flight titles won by the famous Naples club.

Maradona then failed a drug test in 1991 after testing positive for cocaine and was handed a 15 month ban. Shortly afterwards, he was also arrested in Argentina for taking cocaine and ordered by a judge to undergo medical treatment to fight his addiction.

The midfielder refused to return to Napoli when his ban ran out in 1992 and instead joined Sevilla but was sacked by the Spanish club in 1993 and returned to Argentina to play for Newell’s Old Boys.

26 November 2020, Argentina, Buenos Aires: Fans wave flags of the club Boca Juniors as people take to the streets to bid farewell to late Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona. Argentina football great Diego Maradona has died at the age of 60, the Argentinian Football Association said on Wednesday. Photo: Fernando Gens/dpa.

Fans wave flags of the club Boca Juniors as people take to the streets to bid farewell to the Argentinian football legend. Photo: Fernando Gens/dpa.

Return to Argentina

Recalled to the national team for the 1994 World Cup in the United States, Maradona only played two matches before receiving a ban after testing positive for the proscribed drug ephedrine.

Two unsuccessful coaching stints with Argentinian clubs Deportivo Mandiyu of Corrientes and Racing Club followed before, in 1995, he went back to Boca Juniors, where he played on and off until 1997.

In between, Maradona booked himself into a Swiss rehabilitation clinic in an effort to conquer his drug addiction.

Following health problems in Uruguay in 2000, Maradona moved to Cuba where he remained until March 2004, when he returned to his native Argentina.

Out of the blue, he was then named Argentina coach in 2008 and was in charge for the 2010 World Cup. They were beaten 4-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals in South Africa but the team played with the same panache that he had displayed as a player.

Pundits who had expected his tenure to be a disaster were made to eat their words but he still left the job shortly afterwards.

Maradona-buenos-aires-fans-by-dpa

People gather outside the mortuary where the body of the Argentinian football legend was brought. Photo: Julieta Ferrario/dpa.

He then coached various clubs across the globe.

But it was as a player that the football world will remember him.

World governing body FIFA named him along with Brazil's Pele in 2000 as the best player of the century.

Football will not see his like again.

FILED - 29 June 1986, Mexico, Mexico City: Argentine footballer Diego Maradona kisses the FIFA World Cup Trophy next to Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid (L) and German chancellor Helmut Kohl (R) after his team's victory over West Germany in the 1986 FIFA World Cup Final. Argentina football great Diego Maradona has died at the age of 60, the Argentinian Football Association said on Wednesday. Photo: -/dpa

Maradona kisses the FIFA World Cup Trophy next to Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid (L) and German chancellor Helmut Kohl (R) after his team's victory over West Germany in 1986. Photo: dpa.

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