- 25 Nov 20
Diego Maradona was one of the greatest footballers of all time. He reached the zenith of an extraordinary career when leading Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup – but he also had a troubled life, in which addiction and ill-health played an increasingly central part.
Diego Maradona, one of the greatest footballers of all time, has died.
Maradona was born in 1960 in Lanús, in the province of Buenos Aires in Argentina. A young footballing prodigy, he was 15 years of age when he played his first professional game, for Argentinos Juniors. It was the beginning of a much-garlanded and often controversial career. Just over three weeks later, he scored his first goal in the Argentine Primera Division – and he proceeded to become a prolific scorer with the club, bagging 115 goals in 167 appearances.
He moved to Boca Juniors in 1981 and appeared in the 1982 World Cup with Argentina. In the wake of that tournament he was transferred to Barcelona, for a then world record fee of $7.6million. It was the beginning of a tenure in Europe that would elevate him to superstar status.
While his time at Barcelona was injury-hit, his next move would be career-defining, as he was transferred to Napoli in 1984. He became captain, and led the club to its first ever Italian Serie A title in the 1986-87 season. For the following two seasons, Napoli were runners-up but they won their second title in 1989-90, cementing the legendary status of their extraordinary No.10.
He enjoyed even greater glory in international football. Maradona had been brutally treated by the footballing hard men of Italy and Brazil in the 1982 World Cup finals. But he had the last laugh in 1986, captaining the Argentina side to victory in what was an astonishing competition. Along the way, Maradona went down in the annals of footballing infamy – at least as far as England were concerned – when he scored the infamous "Hand of God" goal that eliminated the English team from the competition.
Just four minutes later, Maradona scored what was later voted the greatest goal in the history of the World Cup, slaloming in the most extraordinary way on a solo run through the England defence, beating five players with just 11 touches that took him more than half the length of the pitch. It was the high point of what was an extraordinary footballing career. Argentina beat Germany 3-2 in a pulsating final and Maradona proudly raised the Jules Rimet trophy as captain of the World Cup-winning team.
He later became the manager of Argentina, but he never achieved the same kind of eminence in that role – including at any of the clubs he worked with – as he had as a footballer.
Coming from a disadvantaged background, Diego Maradona lived with demons of one kind or another all of his life. He was addicted to cocaine from some time in the 1980s onwards until 2004. He also found it extremely difficult to control his weight. These were undoubtedly major factors in the ill-health that dogged him continuously – to one degree or another – over the past 20 years and more.
Throughout his life he remained a maverick, ever combustible, often entertaining – but inevitably, in many ways, a poignant figure. He was loved wildly, of course, by fans of great football. And, alongside Pele and Messi, he will remain one of the ultimate iconic sporting figures – a man who delivered extraordinary joy and imperishable memories to countless millions across the world.
May he rest in peace.