Born: Lanus 30 October 1960
Club(s): Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, Newells Old Boys, Boca Juniors
International Caps: 91
International Goals: 34
Diego Armando Maradona is considered by many, as the purists greatest footballer ever to walk the planet. And whilst Pele may have scored the most goals, won more trophies and lead a more exemplary life within the game, Maradona, who had his problems both on and off the field represents much more than the model footballer, quite the opposite in fact.
Maradona with a ball at his feet is genius. But people can relate to Maradona because people are not perfect, and Maradona’s career was far from that.
As a 15 year old he made his debut for Argentinos Juniors going on to score 116 league goals in 166 games and earning his first international cap in 1977 aged just 16. After signing for Boca Juniors in 1981 Maradona was then sold to Barcelona for a world record fee on the eve of the 1982 world cup, his first major tournament aged 21. Maradona was a marked man in Spain during the world cup and had his troubles at the Nou Camp thereafter with injuries, illness and discipline, although the odd glimpse of magic was often apparent in his game.
However in 1984 Maradona would again move for a record fee to Napoli in what would become the transfer that made the diminutive playmaker into a football god not just in Italy, but throughout the world.
In 1986 as captain he lead Argentina to the FIFA World Cup scoring five goals including two in the Quarter Finals against England, the hand of god, possibly the most controversial goal of all time followed minutes later by the greatest, picking the ball up on the half way line and running through the England team in what was later described as FIFA goal of the century. In the semi-finals Maradona twice scored against Belgium in a 2-0 win and would make the pass that won the world cup for Jorge Burrachaga as Argentina beat West Germany in the final 3-2.
The following season Maradona would make more history by helping Napoli win their first ever Serie A title and Coppa Italia double. In 1989 he scored the first goal in their UEFA Cup final win and the following season helped Napoli to win their second scudetto. Maradona was a Neopolitan Legend, this short stocky powerful playmaker was finally winning the trophies that his ability deserved.
In 1990 Maradona lead Argentina to the final of the World Cup but in an ill fated game they would lose to West Germany, later his problems would emerge after testing positive for cocaine. A 15 month ban would end his Napoli career and he moved to Sevilla before joining Newells Old Boys back in his homeland.
In the 1994 World Cup Maradona would rekindle some of his early form with a goal against Greece, but against Nigeria, a post match drug test saw him positive for ephedrine. He was immediately sent home and never played for Argentina again.
Maradona played sparingly thereafter for Boca Juniors but retired in 1997. He went on to Manage Argentina during the 2010 World Cup before taking on Coaching roles in the Middle East.
To sum up the style of this 5ft5in naturally gifted footballer with glue on his boots you would say divine. To sum up the career, it had its ups and downs, but it was never without controversy. Whether Maradona was the greatest is not for debate. He certainly was, but his tendency to get involved with opponents, his hot head, his addictive personality and his over zealous passion lead to many fracas and incidents that otherwise tainted his career.
Maradona wasn’t the perfect footballer, but imperfections are sexy, and that’s why we love him so much.