Diego Maradona

Football legend and Argentina World Cup winner Diego Maradona passes away

Photo by jasondsouza48 on Flickr

— 4 minute read — By Ed Bazeley

On 25th November, Diego Maradona, 60, was pronounced dead after suffering a heart attack at his home in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires. Maradona’s death came just a matter of weeks after he had undergone brain surgery.

His illustrious football career began in 1976 when he signed a professional contract at Buenos Aires club Argentinos Juniors where he spent 5 years, scoring 116 goals in 166 appearances. His eye-catching performances at his first club earned him a big move to Argentina’s second-most successful club, Boca Juniors, for whom he played just 40 games.

Following his short-lived but successful time at Boca, the talented number ten moved to Spain to play for perhaps the most iconic football club of them all, FC Barcelona. His transfer fee was £5 million which made him the world’s most expensive player at the time. From 1982-84, he made just 36 appearances for the Catalonian giants with a respectable goal tally of 22. Maradona was the first ever Barcelona player to be given a round of applause by Real Madrid fans during El Clasico, overcoming a fierce rivalry which evokes not only sporting but cultural and political differences too.

In 1984, the Argentine swapped the gulf of Barcelona for the bay of Naples, transferring to Serie A side Napoli for another world record fee. The six years Maradona spent at Napoli were the most iconic and successful years of his club career. His dizzying dribbling skills and world-class shooting precision carried the Neapolitans to their sole Scudettos (Italian league titles) in 1987 and 1990. The 1986-87 campaign was the greatest season in the club’s history as they won the league and cup double. In 1989, Maradona scored in the UEFA Cup final to help the side secure their only major European trophy.

Throughout his career, Maradona struggled with drug addiction and in 1992 he departed Napoli during the aftermath of a positive drugs test for cocaine. After becoming the ‘King of Naples’, Maradona moved to Spain once more, this time to play for Sevilla. This phase of his career only lasted a season, after which he returned to Argentina, enjoying a season at Newell’s Old Boys and a second spell at Boca Juniors where he hung up his boots in 1997.

The most iconic moments of Diego Maradona’s magnificent playing career were in the blue and white stripes of Argentina. He led his country to World Cup glory in the Mexico ’86 tournament but this feat did not come without controversy. In the quarter final against England, he scored football’s most infamous goal along with one of the game’s best ever goals. In the 51st minute he scored by using his fist. The officials failed to pick up the incident and the goal stood much to the disgust of England fans and players alike. After the game, Maradona made a bogus claim that it was the “hand of God”.

What unfolded just four minutes later was equally unbelievable, albeit for all the right reasons, as the playmaker majestically skipped through the entirety of the England defence and slotted the ball home to secure victory. In footballing terms, England and Argentina have been bitter rivals ever since.

Following his playing career, Maradona went into football management, but was never close to having the success he earned as a player. His most famous moment as a manager came in 2010 when he managed the Argentina national team at the South Africa World Cup, winning games against Nigeria, South Korea, Greece and Mexico en route to a quarter-final finish.

Maradona’s death came as a great shock to the global football family. Fellow Argentinian megastar Lionel Messi paid tribute to the great by displaying a Newell’s Old Boys number 10 jersey after he scored in a league win for Barcelona. Napoli paid respects to their former talisman by changing their strip to an Argentina themed blue and white stripes during their clash with Roma. Napoli club president Aurelio De Laurentiis has confirmed the side’s stadium will be named after the Argentinian legend.

In Argentina, a funeral procession for Diego Maradona attended by thousands sadly turned violent as fans desperately tried to scramble to the front in order to catch a glimpse of their hero’s coffin. A funeral worker was involved in an incident in which he took a thumbs-up selfie next to the footballer’s coffin and has since apologised. The police are still investigating Maradona’s death as his daughters question whether their father’s doctor, Leopoldo Luque, did all he could to keep him alive. Mr Luque appeared on TV channels around the world and was visibly very upset by the death of his patient.

The largest ceremony held outside of Maradona’s homeland was in Naples where fans gathered in large numbers to observe a pyrotechnic display, commemorating the death of a hero who not only made their city dream but made the substance of their dreams true. Despite his controversial moments on the field and his struggles off it, Diego Armando Maradona is one of the best players to ever grace the beautiful game.

Diego Maradona will be celebrated for his contribution to the beautiful game, and revered as one of football’s greatest ever legends.