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Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona, one of the greatest footballers of all time, dies aged 60

• Argentinian inspired his country to World Cup glory in 1986
• He possessed sublime skill and led a troubled personal life




Sachin Nakrani


Wed 25 Nov 2020 16.36 GMT


Diego Maradona, regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, has died aged 60.

The Argentinian, who had brain surgery this month, inspired his country to World Cup glory in 1986 when as captain he displayed a level of skill, creativity, strength and desire arguably not seen before or since. In the 2-1 quarter-final victory over England he also scored perhaps the greatest goal of all time, a match in which the forward also showed his darker, mischievous side with the infamous ‘Hand of God’.


Maradona also achieved success at club level, most notably with Napoli, whom he led to their first Serie A title in 1987. A second followed in 1990, alongside an Italian Cup in 1987 and a Uefa Cup in 1991, and such was the player’s impact at a club which previously had lived in the shadow of Italy’s northern powerhouses, particularly Juventus, Milan and Internazionale, that Napoli announced in 2000 that they were retiring his No 10 shirt.

It was during his seven years in Naples, however, that Maradona’s addiction to cocaine took grip. He was hit with a 15-month suspension for drug violations in 1991 – the year he left Napoli – and, three years later, was thrown out of the World Cup in the US after testing positive for ephedrine.

From there Maradona’s personal life spiralled out control and in 2000 and 2004 he was hospitalised for heart problems, the second time requiring the use of a respirator to breathe properly. The following year he underwent gastric-bypass surgery to help stem his obesity.

None of that, however, could overshadow his talents on the pitch which, at their peak, were almost supernatural.


Born in Buenos Aires on 30 October 1960, Diego Armando Maradona was a child prodigy and having joined Los Cebollitas, a youth team of Argentinos Juniors, at the age of 10 he played a key role in them going on an incredible 136-game winning streak, which in turn led to him making his debut for the senior side just before his 16th birthday.


Shortly after – on 27 February 1977 –Maradona made his debut for Argentina, coming on as a 65th minute substitute in a friendly against Hungary at La Bombonera, the home of Boca Juniors’, whom Maradona joined in 1981. He spent only one season at the club but in that time scored a stunning solo goal against arch rivals River Plate and helped Boca to win the title.

Given his rapid development and consistently commanding displays, it was no surprise Maradona was soon being courted by Europe’s biggest clubs and in 1982, having featured at his first World Cup, in Spain, he joined Barcelona for a then world record fee of £5m.

He struggled to show his best form for the Catalans, however, partly because of the broken ankle he suffered in September 1983 following a tackle from the “Butcher of Bilbao”, Andoni Goicoechea. But Maradona eventually recovered and in 1984 joined Napoli. Two years later came the World Cup in Mexico and the moment he established himself as a genuine great.

Argentina’s captain played every minute of every game, scoring five goals and providing assists for five others. He was supreme throughout, the most dynamic and exciting player at the tournament and took the breath away with his second goal against England at the Azteca Stadium when he twisted past two players on the halfway line before bursting past another pair and, under pressure from Terry Butcher’s lunge, went around Peter Shilton before passing the ball into an empty net. It was a stunning display of skill allied to courage and it little wonder the strike is still refereed to by some as “the goal of the century.”


Four minutes earlier Maradona scored his first of the game. Argentina’s No10 clearly punched the ball past Shilton as the pair challenged for a high ball but despite protests from Bobby Robson’s men, the goal stood. “I’ll never forgive him,” Butcher said in 2008. “It’s not nice when you lose a World Cup quarter-final under those circumstances. It’s very hard to forgive and forget in the circumstances. “

Maradona took part in two further World Cups – in 1990, when he captained Argentina to runners-up place, and 1994, when he was sent home having scored in the 4-0 group victory over Greece, which proved to be his last appearance for his country. In total Maradona was capped 91 times, scoring 34 goals.

At club level Maradona joined Sevilla following his departure from Napoli before returning to his homeland to play for Newell’s Old Boys and Boca, where he retired in 1997.


Following his personal battles he managed Argentina for two years, taking them to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa where a team containing the likes of Juan Sebastian Veron, Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi reached the quarter-finals. A year later, and having left the national team post, he took charge of Dubai-based club Al-Wasl before going on to hold a number of positions, most recently manager of Argentinian first division side Gimnasia y Esgrima.

But it is for his playing exploits that Maradona will be best remembered. Having been named South American Footballer of the Year on five occasions, he was in 2000 named Fifa’s Player of the Century alongside Pele following a combination of an internet poll and nominations from Fifa officials, coaches and players. Maradona won the popular vote.


Edited by Uilleam
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The Times' Obit.


Diego Maradona obituary

Supremely gifted yet troubled Argentinian footballer who led his country to World Cup victory in 1986

Wednesday November 25 2020, 5.00pm, The Times
Diego Maradona with the World Cup after his Argentina side beat West Germany 3-2 in the 1986 final in Mexico City
Diego Maradona with the World Cup after his Argentina side beat West Germany 3-2 in the 1986 final in Mexico City

Diego Maradona’s life was not so much in the tradition of a once-great footballer who goes to rot; rather, it resembled that of a fallen movie idol, or rock star. Like Elvis, he was a genius, but a genius who was ruined by a life of self-indulgence.

Whereas drink is the customary Achilles’ heel in the soccer world, Maradona’s downfall was owed to a combined addiction to drugs, drink, eating and sex. Most notably, his chronic cocaine problem accentuated his erratic, violent and often bizarre behaviour.

Maradona was an easily-led, self-obsessed and melodramatic figure. Yet towering above all his self-destructive antics lay a footballing legend. As a dribbler on the field, he was the finest, even surpassing Pele.

His greatest triumph came in the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico where he was at his imperious best. Short, muscular and lightning quick, Maradona slalomed through opposition defences, hurdling challenges and brushing off crude attempts to stop him. He was instrumental in Argentina’s victory in the competition, scoring all four of the team’s goals — two of them breathtaking — against England and Belgium on the way to their 3-2 defeat of West Germany in the final. Mexico ’86 was Maradona’s apotheosis, and it was England’s nemesis.

Five minutes into the second half of the England-Argentina clash, with the game at 0-0, there was a scramble by the England goalmouth. The defender Steve Hodge hooked the ball over his head, meaning to pass it to the goalkeeper, Peter Shilton. Maradona rose to intercept, clenching his raised fist close to his head, and punched the ball over the outstretched arm of Shilton, flicking his head as he did so to hide his actions.


Despite the protests of the England players, both linesman and referee failed to spot the infringement. Yet even the most resentful England fans had to admire Maradona’s second goal in that game. He picked up the ball in his own half, wrong-stepped two England players, then sent Terry Butcher in the wrong direction; Terry Fenwick shirked, and as Maradona neared the goal, he again escaped the advances of Butcher. Maradona then moved the ball from right foot to left before putting it past Shilton. “You have to say that’s magnificent,” conceded the BBC’s commentator, Barry Davies.

Maradona in 1978 wearing the colours of Argentinos Juniors, who signed him when he was 12
Maradona in 1978 wearing the colours of Argentinos Juniors, who signed him when he was 12

Maradona scored an almost equally brilliant solo effort against Belgium in the following game, yet his handled goal against England became an enduring image. After the game he explained it was the “Hand of God”. To the English such deviousness and cheek merely added insult to injury. Others injected the feat with greater meaning: Brian Glanville called it “Corinthian” while a book written by a committee of Neopolitan lawyers, doctors and anthropologists later declared: “His goal scored with the hand, the famous hand of God, reminds one of Ulysses for its deception and cunning.”

In retrospect it could be seen as indicative of things to come; that such a genius could be so undisciplined, that he felt he needed to cheat, to go one step further, was perhaps a pointer to the unhappy times ahead.

Diego Armando Maradona was born in 1960 and raised in the back streets of Villa Fiorito, the fifth of eight children of a family of Italian and indigenous Indian descent. His father, also called Diego but known as “Chitoro”, was a railway worker, and the young Maradona grew up in considerable poverty. With little money to pay for entertainment, he spent most of his childhood playing football in the streets, and when not doing this, practising knock-ups by himself with a tennis ball.

Outside the home in Buenos Aires where the Maradona family lived from 1977-80. It is now a museum
Outside the home in Buenos Aires where the Maradona family lived from 1977-80. It is now a museum

The club Argentinos Juniors spotted and signed him at the age of 12, and he made his debut in the Argentine league three years later. By 16 he had represented his country, making his debut as a substitute in a friendly against Hungary in February 1977. In 1981 Boca Juniors signed him for £1 million — then a record for a teenager — and a year later Barcelona bought him for another world record of £4 million. His young talents failed to materialise at the Catalonian club (indeed, Terry Venables managed to win the league with Barcelona the year after he departed). Most notoriously, he disgraced himself in full view of King Carlos and 100,000 spectators in 1984 after Bilbao’s defeat of Barcelona by a goal to nil. Maradona butted and laid out the Bilbao defender José Núñez, then hammered Miguel Sola to the ground after he had taunted the Argentinian with a crude gesture. A full scrum ensued, for which Maradona was given a three-month ban.

In 1984 he was signed by Napoli, again for a world record of £5 million. Here he flourished, enjoying his greatest success at club level, leading the Italian side to a cup victory in 1987, their first Serie A championship in 1987 and a Uefa cup triumph over Stuttgart in 1989.

The 1990 World Cup in Italy was a disappointment to Argentina and Maradona. The maestro was clearly past his peak of four years earlier but still served up flashes of genius that enabled Argentina to make the final, where they lost 1-0 to West Germany in a dismal fashion. Maradona took the defeat in an undignified manner, a dishevelled loser seen bawling his eyes out after the final whistle. Mexico ’86 would remain his sole World Cup success: he had been left out of the Argentina squad altogether in 1978 and in 1982 his and Argentina’s tournament ended in the second round when he was sent off against Brazil after retaliating against much rough treatment.

The 1986 World Cup victory proved to be the pinnacle of Maradona’s career. Four years later in Italy, Argentina lost 1-0 to West Germany in an insipid final
The 1986 World Cup victory proved to be the pinnacle of Maradona’s career. Four years later in Italy, Argentina lost 1-0 to West Germany in an insipid final

The finals in the US in 1994 proved his final undoing. His wild-eyed goal celebrations after putting one past Greece appeared, to many, over-exuberant, even by Maradona’s theatrical standards. He was finally ejected from the tournament after Argentina’s 2-1 victory against Nigeria, having been found taking two banned substances. Maradona had been taking cortisone for some time to combat a back injury; he also had three pins in his ankle. For 15 years unscrupulous managers made sure that he received painkilling injections before every game.

In some ways Maradona was here the victim. Nevertheless, his involvement with drugs of the recreational rather the performance-enhancing kind was well known by 1994. Many were surprised he was playing in America at all. His club-level career was effectively finished in 1991 when Napoli expelled him after he was named in a major drug smuggling ring involving the mafia. He claimed he had been framed, though prostitutes he had been involved with had already disclosed to the Italian press his drug, and indeed his sex, habits (he was also a self-confessed devotee of pornographic films). After a transfer to Seville, he was sacked again after brawling in a cup final, and returned to Argentina, where he was arrested for cocaine possession.

Diego Maradona served a 15-month ban for failing the drug test in the USA. Again he claimed a conspiracy, complaining: “They’ve cut my legs off. I killed myself training and now they do this to me.”

His cocaine habit was by now having an evident effect on his behaviour. Reporters crowding outside his gates to ask him about his ban were met with the sound of shots, as Maradona set upon them with an air pistol.

Though, in truth, he did not need stimulants to be capable of such actions. In 1981 a 16-year-old autograph hunter who asked Maradona how much money he expected to make from a forthcoming Mini World Cup was punched in the face, an enraged Maradona having to be restrained by a small crowd.

In September 1995 he returned to the footballing scene, playing for Boca Juniors against South Korea in front of a 70,000 Seoul crowd. He had not lost his touch, timing nor sense of flow, though he had slowed considerably. He had now begun to assume a rather portly appearance, taking appropriate measures in 1995 when a plastic surgeon removed his double chin. A year later he employed Ben Johnson, a contemporary athlete who had also fallen foul of the doping men, as a fitness coach, losing 24lb.

Maradona in Italy in 1989 with his daughters Dalma and GianninaMaradona in Italy in 1989 with his daughters Dalma and Giannina
Maradona in Italy in 1989 with his daughters Dalma and Giannina

By now football was taking a back seat to his more publicity-seeking, and sometimes peculiar, pursuits. In 1995 he teamed up with the appreciably ill-tempered Eric Cantona to form a footballers’ union “to safeguard the rights of footballers all over the world”. The same year he also spoke at the Oxford Union, where he performed kick-ups with a golf ball.

In 1996 he took part in a three-round exhibition boxing match against the former world flyweight champion Santos Laciar in Cardoba; he then went on to launch his own five-nights-a-week chat show in Argentina; he later got a tattoo of Che Guevara on his right arm; while in 1998 the wife of Claudio Caniggia, his international teammate, claimed Maradona was in love with her husband.

At 5ft 5in, he was not built like a conventional footballer, though he made up for his diminutive stature with his chunky, muscular demeanour and, at times, outright wizardry with the ball. And despite his now tarnished reputation, in his home country, Maradona always remained a hero. They loved him because he came from the lowest sector of society, and not least because of that goal against England. To Argentinians, it was viewed as a display of viveza, craftiness and willingness to bend the rules when it so suited them, a quality much admired in that country. England fans could never bring themselves to forgive him for the Hand of God, even when in 1998 he confessed: “I realise that goal should not have stood and I am sorry for what happened.”

During his five greatest years, those spent at Napoli, he earned $30 million. He was generous to his family, perhaps over-generous with those long-lost relations who always re-discover wealthy relatives. Much of his money went also on his love of sports cars — and cocaine. In 1996 he finally confessed to an Argentine magazine: “I was, I am and I always will be a drug addict.”

A report from a special clinic that year confirmed that Maradona had suffered brain damage from his cocaine habit. His behaviour was now increasingly intemperate and he could often not recognise family or close friends. In January 2000 he was admitted to an intensive care hospital after suffering heart problems; the result of his drug and drink habit. His admirers included Fidel Castro and the Pope.

Maradona, a devout Roman Catholic, married his long-term girlfriend Claudia Villfene in 1989 after he had promised John Paul II to do as much. One of their two daughters Dalma, became an actress and singer; the other, Giannina, had a child with the Manchester City footballer Sergio Aguero.

In Dallas in 1994 after being dropped from the Argentina World Cup squad, having testing positive for the use of banned drugs
In Dallas in 1994 after being dropped from the Argentina World Cup squad, having testing positive for the use of banned drugs

She and their two daughters survive him, as does Diego Sinagra, ruled by an Italian court in 1995 to be his son by another woman. At the age of 12 Sinagra was signed up by his father’s old club, Napoli but only went on to play lower-league football, as well as representing Italy in the Beach Soccer World Cup.

Maradona’s final years were dogged by ill health. He was admitted to hospital in April 2007 suffering from abdominal pains and diagnosed with hepatitis. He received further treatment in a psychiatric clinic that specialised in alcohol-related problems. But he recovered to take over stewardship of the Argentine national side, overcoming an early 6-1 defeat to Bolivia to scrape into the 2010 World Cup.

His private life, meanwhile, remained complicated. In 2013 he had another son called Diego, with Veronica Ojeda. In 2017 he took Claudia and Giannina to court, claiming they had stolen money from him.

A few weeks ago this flawed yet supremely gifted footballer, who scored 359 goals for club and country combined, was back in the news when he was rushed to hospital again to have a blood clot on the brain operated upon. Heart failure was to follow and, this time, not even divine intervention could save him.

Diego Maradona, footballer, was born on October 30, 1960. He died of a heart attack on November 25, 2020, aged 60

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To be honest, I was far too occupied with and interested in Rangers players in my life as a football supporter than to remember much of Maradona as a "football genius". What stuck to mind is that goal against England which I saw in a live broadcast on East German television. That's 34 years ago and if he was famous for his game-play, I saw too little of it to join those lauding him as "the greatest ever".


Mind you, even now we have truly great players like Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and people can't agree who is "better". So while this planet has been graced by many truly great footballers, I'll leave it to others to "evaluate" the likes of Pele, Maradona, Zico, Ronaldo (a few of that name), Messi et al, while e.g. swooning over Alfredo's Rangers goals or Roofe's stunners this season ...


May the earth be light to him nonetheless.

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Maradona was a very good football player by any measure you want to apply to a footballer, except maybe longevity or the basic sporting principle of fair play.


However, to use epithets like "genius" is just nonsense, the sort of cheap currency that's traded in tabloids the world over. James Clerk Maxwell was a genius, Nikola Tesla was a genius, Maradona wasn't. 

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Genuinely surprised to note President Trump has paid tribute to the mercurial Artiste.


The Donald is saddened at the passing of such a genius, has all her albums and continues to play them regularly. The soon to be Former President admits to starting everyday with a workout to, 'Like a Virgin'. Further, the Donald applauds the generosity of the Argentine people, taking responsibility for the funeral predicated on a strong performance in, 'Evita'.

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