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|FULL NAME:||Diego Armando Maradona Franco|
|DATE and PLACE OF BIRTH:||30 October, 1960. Lanus, Buenos Aires, Argentina.|
|Teams:||Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, Newell’s Old Boys|
|Playing Position:||Attacking midfielder, Second striker|
Along with Pele, Diego Maradona is widely believed to be the greatest football player of all time.
This controversial superstar of the game continues to divide opinions in world football even today. As is typical of Maradona, his two most recognizable moments in football, the “Hand of God” and the “Goal of the Century”, both came in the same game. He has won numerous accolades with club and country over the course of his career.
While Diego was born in Lanus, Buenos Aires, he grew up in Villa Fiorito, outside the main city. He was born to a very poor family and was the fifth child in the family. At age 10, he was spotted by a scout and joined the junior team of Argentinos Juniors. His talent was obvious right from the start. He made his professional debut with the same club’s senior side in 1976, days before turning sixteen. In his 6-year stint with the club, he scored 115 goals in 167 appearances. He then joined one of the country’s biggest clubs, Boca Juniors, halfway through the 1981 season. He went on to lift the league title in 1982.
It was after the 1982 World Cup that Maradona transferred to Europe. He was purchased by Barcelona for a world record transfer fee of 5 million pounds. Maradona endured a difficult time in Barcelona suffering illness and a horrific injury, one which threatened to jeopardize his playing career. He also frequently clashed with the team directors at Camp Nou. Despite all of this, Maradona scored 38 goals in 58 games for the Blaugrana.
He was finally moved on to Napoli in 1984 for another world record fee of 6.9 million pounds. It was in the south of Italy that Maradona shone. He became a fan favorite and led the club to its only league titles, 1986/87 and 1989/90. He also won the UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia during his time at the club. However, his problems off the field continued. His cocaine use increased and he began to miss numerous training sessions owing to it. He left Naples in disgrace when he tested positive for cocaine. He went on to spend a season in Sevilla, before ending his career back in Argentina with Boca Juniors.
It was on the international stage that Maradona made his mark. Although he played all five games for Argentina in the 1982 World Cup, he failed to leave much of an impression on the world. It was the 1986 World Cup in Mexico which saw him rise to the status he has today. He scored 5 goals and provided 5 assists in the tournament in which he was captain. He is best remembered for his performance against England in the quarter final where he scored one of the most controversial goals of all time when he quite clearly nudged the ball past the English keeper, Peter Shilton. The referee let the goal stand though, much to the anger of the English players. Maradona dubbed the goal as the Hand of God after the game.
Just minutes after the goal, Maradona produced a moment of sublime quality when, having received the ball on the halfway line, he proceeded to beat the entire English defence and slide the ball past the keeper. The goal was voted as the greatest one scored at a World Cup. Argentina went on to win the tournament beating West Germany 3-2 in the final.
The following edition saw a rematch of the ‘86 final. This time, however, Maradona ended up on the losing side. Maradona was part of the 1994 World Cup side. However, after playing in two games, he was sent home from the squad when he failed a drug test for ephedrine doping. This signaled the inglorious end of an illustrious international career spanning 17 years, 91 appearances, and 34 goals.
After calling it a day on his playing career, Maradona has turned to managing. He famously coached his national side in the 2010 World Cup, where an infamous 4-0 rout at the hands of Germany sealed his fate.
Maradona is widely acknowledged to be the man who almost single handedly won the 1986 World Cup. He won the Golden Ball for his outstanding performances in the tournament. At the 1990 tournament he won the Bronze Ball. At the club level, he has won multiple trophies with Barcelona and Napoli. In 1987-88 he won the Capocannoniere award, the prize given to the highest goal scorer of the Serie A season. Napoli has even retired his famous number 10 jersey to pay tribute to his greatness.
Nobody in world football divides opinions the way Maradona does. He espouses a fierce loyalty among his fans in Argentina who have even started a religion in his honor. “The Church of Maradona” reformulates various aspects of Christian tradition to reflect details from Maradona.
Maradona’s drug abuse problems are well documented. He allegedly started using cocaine while in Barcelona. By the time he transferred to Naples, the problem had become a full-blown addiction, so much so that the addiction began to interfere with his on-field abilities. It is the same addiction that saw him exit the club in ignominious circumstances despite his legendary status there. It is also said that he dealt extensively with the underworld during his time in Naples although there has been no conclusive evidence to prove this. He’s suffered a heart attack due to alcohol and cocaine addiction.
Maradona’s legacy to the footballing world is a mixed one. Whether he was off on one of his mazy runs or deftly touching the ball into the path of an on-rushing teammate or taking petty potshots at Pele, Maradona is a man who never fails to mesmerize. Currently, he works as a “spiritual coach” of the Argentine Primera D club Deportivo Riestra.