Regarded widely as the Prince of Football, the Argentine legend passed away on November 25.
If you’re born in this century, you fall in the category of unfortunate people who have not witnessed Diego Maradona live from a stadium or even on a television set. However, that void is mostly filled with stories narrated by your family members or through online clips. It is quite possible that your love for the beautiful game started with those fabled tales about Diego Maradona, who brought revolution with the ball at his feet.
Diego Maradona was never an ideal footballer who followed all the rules and regulations. He paved his own path of greatness through his magic on the grass. A career and later life filled with controversies often overshadowed his brilliance on the field as a player. But for the ones who experienced him playing, will hold him in the highest esteem for his contribution to football.
El Diego inspired generations to play the sport and on his untimely demise, all of us at Khel Now mourn him by remembering the top ten moments from his career.
10. World Youth Championships 1979
One might still disagree with then Argentina head coach Cesar Menotti who decided to exclude a 16-year-old Diego Maradona from the 1978 World Cup squad on home soil. However, a year later he chose Maradona for the Youth Championships and the Argentinian announced himself to the world.
Diego Maradona and Ramon Diaz impressed in that competition held in Japan, as Argentina won the tournament as they scored 20 goals and conceded only two. Diego Maradona won the player of the tournament award and it was at this stage he announced his exceptional dribbling, passing, scoring and dead ball abilities to the world.
9. Four goals against Boca Juniors
There were questions raised on his physical attributes throughout his playing career. Maradona always took the criticism to his chin and answered the critics with his performance on the field. In 1989, a similar thing happened when Boca Juniors goalkeeper Hugo Gatti mocked Maradona of being obese. The Little Magician did not take the remark lightly and vowed to score four goals against Boca with his side, Argentina Juniors, his first professional club.
The Argentine kept his promised and score four past Gatti, one from the penalty spot, one with an exquisite flick and the other two were nestled in from freekicks. The performance was a testament to his determination and hunger to prove a point to his doubters.
8. Hand of God
Just like his life, Diego Maradona was a bit of black and white but never grey. He often mixed controversy with sheer genius and against England in the 1986 FIFA World Cup quarterfinal, it was a bit of both at display. Apart from being a quarterfinal, the match had a huge political influence as it was set in the backdrop of conflict in the Falklands/ Malvinas and it reflected in the way both teams played.
The Argentine was known for his quick link up passes and he played something of that sort to Jorge Valdano only to be intercepted by English midfielder Steve Hodge. However, the ball saw an odd bounce as it looped up in the air, asking for an aerial duel between Maradona and English custodian Peter Shilton. The little magician in mid-air against the mighty Shilton tucked the ball in with his arm and wiled away in celebration as if nothing has happened. The goal stood and after the match, the Argentinian claimed that the goal was scored ‘with a little of Maradona and a little of the Hand of God’.
7. The goal of the century
While the first one was luck or some may even call it cheating, the second goal against the Three Lions that day was simply jaw-dropping. Although the controversy of the ‘Hand of God’ often overshadows the brilliance of El Diego. The second goal is often renowned as the ‘Goal of the Century’ and rightly so.
People who saw Diego Maradona play, tends to believe in his special gameplay. El Diego received the ball in Argentina’s half and then gradually started picking pace. His double drag back to evade from Peter Beardsley and Peter Reid set the crowd on fire. However, the magic did not end there as he was still near the halfway line. His subtle change of pace and exquisite balance on the ball helped him glide past Terry Butcher on the outside and Fenwick on the inside and then he simply went around Shilton to send the ball home. A sight to behold and a goal to remember forever.
6. Defence splitting pass against West Germany to win the 1986 World Cup
The way La Albiceleste crossed every hurdle that came their way in the 1986 World Cup riding on Maradona’s brilliance, it looked like they were going to take the trophy home. After winning against England, Diego Maradona continued his form as he smashed a brace against Belgium in the semis to enter the second World Cup final in three attempts.
Between him and the prestigious trophy stood a sturdy West Germany, who had tightened their focus on him and were hell bent on not allowing him space near the final third. However, with that tactics, they played simply into the hands of Carlos Billardo’s men. La Albiceleste found themselves with a lead, courtesy of goals from Jose Luis Brown and Jorge Valdano. However, West Germany came right back into the game when they levelled the scoreline with goals from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Voller.
The stage was set for El Diego to show his magic as he left it late in the game. A well-timed through ball from Maradona found Jose Burruchaga in space and he made sure that victory was just minutes away. The Argentine great was awarded the Golden Ball as he played a part in 10 of 14 goals scored by Argentina in the tournament.
5. Maiden Scudetto and Coppa Italia double for Napoli in 1987
The Argentine’s arrival at Napoli meant that the Partenopei meant business and they wanted to bring glory to the south. Napoli led the league table for most of the season and finally clinched it on the final day with a 1-1 draw against Fiorentina. The celebrations went on for a week and Maradona received godly status in Naples. He scored 10 goals and was their main man in wins over Milan and Juventus, against whom they did the double.
That season, Maradona inspired Napoli to win the Coppa Italia as well as they reigned supreme over two legs against Atalanta. A double which the Napoli faithful never expected, increased the stature of Diego Maradona among the fans.
4. Napoli’s UEFA Cup triumph
Following their historic Scudetto, Napoli met Real Madrid in the opening day of the UEFA Cup and bowed out of the tournament after losing in two legs. However, a second-place finish in the Serie A in 1988 meant that they returned for Europe again, where they went till the end. In their route to the final, they dramatically defeated Juventus, as Napoli came back to win 3-0 after being down 0-2 in the first leg at San Paolo. It is considered as one of Maradona’s greatest performances for Napoli.
It was their Brazilian forward Careca who stood up against Bayern Munich in the semifinals while they met Stuttgart in the finals. Both Maradona and Careca got on the scoresheet as Napoli defeat the German side 2-1 in the first leg. However, Stuttgart fought harder in the second leg drew the match 3-3 which was not enough to deny Napoli and Diego Maradona from their maiden UEFA Cup victory.
3. Famous warm up ahead of the clash against Bayern
In the 1998/99 UEFA Cup semifinal, Napoli were up against Bayern Munich. While the stage was set for an enticing clash, Maradona chose a very unique way to warm himself up ahead of the game. The Little Magician started dancing to the music of Opus’s 1984 smash Live is Life with the ball under his command. His exquisite control with the ball was witnessed by the Munich crowd who were simply amazed by the Argentinian’s brilliance.
2. Second Scudetto with Napoli- 1990
Unlike their maiden Serie A win, the 1990 triumph was filled with controversies all around. Napoli led the title race for most of the season only to lose it to Milan in February. When it seemed that the Rossoneri are on their way to win the title they lost at Verona in a match full of controversies. Paolo Maldini later claimed that the match was more controversial that Italy-South Korea clash in World Cup 2002.
Napoli took advantage of the situation and won their last two games and beat Milan to the title by two points. Yet again it was Diego Maradona pulling the strings with 16 goals as the Partenopei had a stellar season at home, winning 16 games and drawing once at San Paolo.
ALSO READ: Five times Diego Maradona did the unexpected
1. Beating Brazil in 1990 FIFA World Cup
Keeping Napoli’s Serie win in 1990 aside, the following decade was not the best time for Maradona. His abilities were gradually declining and he was starting to become the shadow of the player he earlier was. He departed Napoli to join Sevilla and his indulgence in drugs and obesity were the main results for his downward graph. He tested positive for a banned substance at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, which ended his international career unceremoniously.
However, his last noted brilliance came in the 1990 FIFA World Cup, when Argentina pinned all their hopes on Diego Maradona. He kept his promise as Argentina cleared the group stage and met bitter rivals Brazil. Maradona’s run followed by a delicate pass to Claudio Caniggia produced the only goal in the encounter and it was the last spell of magic that the world witnessed from him. La Albiceleste went on to beat Yugoslavia and won against Italy on penalties before Germany ended their hopes of defending the title.