Full name Diego Armando Maradona
Date of birth 30/10/1960
Place of birth Buenos Aires, Argentina
You hear the name Maradona and what do you think of? Number 10 shirt? Cocaine? The best player ever? Or ‘that’ goal? Diego Maradona is one of, if not, the greatest footballer the world has ever seen. His skill is completely unfathomable and the way he controlled every single game in which he played, had never been seen before and hasn’t been seen since. Whatever you think of when you hear the name, you can rest assured that the word "legend" is never far from your thoughts.
From the streets to the stadiums
Diego Armando Maradona sounds like a stage name to us now but to those in the shantytowns on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Diego was one boy in thousands, using football as an escape from poverty. It wasn’t long before he was spotted at his local club and he was asked to play for junior team, Argentinos Juniors, when he was only 12. He remained at this club for five years, before being snapped up by the biggest club in Argentina, Boca Juniors, for the princely sum, at the time, of £1 million. He helped them to become league winners and was starting to attract the attention of the rest of the world.
He was quick, he was strong and he was more skilful than anyone in the whole league. His height wasn’t that great but he made it work to his advantage. It meant he could stop and start with sudden bursts of strength and speed. He was a nightmare for defenders at such a young age and with very little top-flight experience, he was a rapidly growing talent.
Europe called and Diego answered
Barcelona waved a record-breaking £5 million in Boca’s direction and the Argentines released Diego in 1982. Although he helped Barcelona to win their national cup competition, he didn’t get on too well there and repeating bouts of sickness meant it was time to move on again and sooner than expected.
In 1984, southern Italian club Napoli made Barcelona an offer they couldn’t refuse. It was another record breaker: £6.9 million for the star, but he was worth every single penny. With Maradona leading the charge, Napoli finally over-took their northern rivals and were crowned Serie A league winners twice, Coppa Italia winners once and UEFA and Italian Supercup winners. However, Maradona started to fall from grace during the late eighties in Naples, and it would sadly become the beginning of the end for the legend.
His beloved Argentina
Maradona is much more famous for playing for his country than for a club team. He made Argentina one of the greatest teams ever, during the 1980s and no team looked forward to playing against the likes of Diego.
He began his international playing career at only 18 and made an immediate impression during the Football World Youth Championships. When he was 22, he played in all of the World Cup matches, showing the world what he was capable of, even though one of those things was being sent off.
The next World Cup in 1986 was to be Maradona’s defining moment though. He captained his country in every minute of every game and finally they defeated West Germany in the final. Maradona scored five goals in the campaign.
His two most famous moments ever, came against England in their 2-1 win in the quarter-finals. Maradona’s two goals couldn’t have been more different. They perfectly represent the man’s entire career. The first was that famous ‘Hand of God’, where he seemed to head the ball into the net using his hand. The second was a masterpiece of football and was voted Best Goal of the Century in 2002 by Fifa. Here is the first one and here is the second.
In the next World Cup in 1990, Maradona was by no means at his best. He was carrying an ankle injury, yet he rallied his team and they still made it to the final, but lost to their previous finalists West Germany.
Although Maradona did play in World Cup 94 in USA, he was kicked out of the tournament after playing in two games, for failing a drugs test. He professed his innocence but the world knew by now that the legend was dependent on drugs. His retirement beckoned.
Cocaine on the Brain
No one knows when cocaine started to become a real problem for Diego Maradona, but it’s thought he dabbled whilst in Argentina, then a bit more in Spain and finally, with the organised crime outfits in Naples in the eighties, it really became an issue. On top of drugs, Maradona was also at the centre of a row over an illegitimate son he had in Italy. He married the “love of his life” Claudia Villafane in 1989 and they had two daughters together. However, the scandal surrounding the illegitimate son, as well as many other alleged affairs, meant the pair divorced in 2004, but remained amicable friends afterwards.
When Maradona stopped playing, he tried his God-like hand at coaching and returned to his beloved home club, Boca Juniors. However that also ended in upset and in him having to leave earlier than he had hoped, due to disagreements between himself and the other staff.
So what has become of him now?
Maradona spent most the 2000s fighting his cocaine addiction. He spent many months in rehab clinics in Cuba amongst other places. In 2004 he suffered a severe heart-attack at only 44. He survived the attack, but then drink problems began too. He was in and out of hospital for the next few years. In May 2007 he went in front of Argentine TV claiming he had kicked every drug and he was completely clean.
A tortured genius is common in many areas of the arts but not always associated with sport. Diego Maradona is an exception in more ways than one. He was one of the greatest men to have ever put a football to his feet and he will forever remain that way, no matter what he did or did not do off the pitch.
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Individual Awards and Honours
- 1979Golden Ball for Best Player of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup
- 1979Argentine Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year
- 1979South American Footballer of the Year
- 1979Argentine League Top Scorer
- 1980 Argentine Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year
- 1980Argentine League Top Scorer
- 1981Argentine Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year
- 1981Argentine League Top Scorer
- 1986 Argentine Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year
- 1986South American Footballer of the Year
- 1986Argentine Sports Writers’ Sportsman of the Year
- 1986Golden Ball
- 1986World Player of the Year
- 1987Best Football in the World
- 1987Serie A Top Scorer
- 1989South American Footballer of the Year
- 1990South American Footballer of the Year
- 1992South American Footballer of the Year
- 1996Golden Ball, services to football
- 1999Argentine Sports Writers’ Sportsman of the Century
- 2000People’s Choice Best Footballer of the Century
- 2002FIFA Goal of the Century
- 2005Argentine Senate Lifetime Achievement
- 1979 FIFA World Youth Championship
- 197975th Anniversary FIFA Cup
- 1986FIFA World Cup
- 1993Artemio Franchi Trophy