When all is said and done, Diego Armando Maradona’s legend is made up of the relationship of his left leg to a football. One of the greatest players to grace a football pitch, who passed away on 25 November due to a heart attack at the age of 60, was an artist with the ball. Although his off-field controversies often overshadowed his on-field prowess, during his pomp in the 1980s, Maradona took the ball and bent games to his will countless times. As Brazillian great Zico once said, “I saw Maradona do things that God himself would doubt were possible.” To celebrate the man, here are five videos of Diego Maradona in God mode.
When Real Madrid fans gave Maradona a standing ovation
When Maradona moved to Barcelona in June of 1982 as a 22-year-old genius from Boca Juniors for a world record fee of £5 million, it seemed like a match made in Heaven. The team playing the most beautiful football had landed the best footballer in the world. But his two seasons in Barcelona were a shambles, with bust ups with the club’s hierarchy, with other players a spell of hepatitis casting a shadow. Despite scoring 38 goals in 58 appearances over two years, it just didn’t gel between him and the club. He ended his time there by instigating a full-fledged kung-fu-fighting brawl between his teammates and the players of Athletic Bilbao in the Copa Del Ray final in 1984.
But, towards the end of the 1983-84 season, he also showed a touch of his insouciant genius. Playing against against Barcelona’s arch-rivals Real Madrid in the final of the short-lived Copa de la Liga tournament’s final, he scored an outrageous goal. The game was being played at the Santiago Bernabéu, the home of Real Madrid. In the second half, Maradona received a pass from Lobo Carrasco and charged off towards the Madrid goal. He left the Madrid goalkeeper Agustín stranded with the drop of a shoulder and skipped past him. With the open goal in front of him, he waited for Real defender Juan José to catch up with him. As José slid in, Maradona dummied him. José crashed into the goalpst. Then Maradona tapped the ball in. When Maradona was in the mood, he wouldn’t just play amazing football, he would humiliate opponents. Real Madrid’s fans applauded him. Many stood up to give him a standing ovation.
When Maradona scored the goal of the century
Maradona’s second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup Quarter-finals, “dubbed the goal of the century” is best summed up by Victor Hugo Morales’s live commentary for Radio Argentina. “Maradona has the ball, two mark him, Maradona touches the ball, the genius of world soccer dashes to the right and leaves the third and is going to pass to Burruchaga. It’s still Maradona! Genius! Genius! Genius! Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta. Goooooaaaal! Gooooooaaaaal! I want to cry! Dear God! Long live soccer! Gooooooaaaaalllllll! Diegoal! Maradona! It’s enough to make you cry, forgive me. Maradona, in an unforgettable run, in the play of all time. Cosmic kite! What planet are you from, to leave in your wake so many Englishmen?”
Maradona dominated the 1986 World Cup like no player before or after has ever dominated that tournament. Against England, in the second-half, he had already angered an entire country and delighted another by cheekily scoring a goal with his left hand. A little later, he wowed both countries (and the world) by setting off on a full-speed mazy run through the heart of the England midfield and defence, the ball sticking to his left foot as if by magic. He went past Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Terry Butcher, Terry Fenwick, rounded the goalkeeper Peter Shilton, beat Butcher a second time, and scored. As Morales screamed, this was football from another planet.
When Maradona put Napoli on top of the world
If Maradona’s time at Barcelona wasn’t much to write home about, he wrote his legend at his next club, Napoli. Founded in 1926, the Italian club had never won the Serie A, and when Maradona moved to Naples in 1984, Napoli was far down the pecking order, behind Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan in the pecking order. They were a mid-table team, having finished 10th and 11th in the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons. If Naples was looking for a football saviour, they found one in Maradona. He steadily improved the side season after season, and, by identifying deeply with the city and its relative poverty, both economically and football-wise as compared to its richer northern neighbours in Rome, Turin and Milan, he came to personify the place. The club came 8th in his debut season, 3rd in his second and won the league in 1985-86, sixty-one years after Napoli were founded. By the time he left at the end of the 1991 season, Napoli had won the league a second time, as well as the Coppa Italia, the UEFA Cup and the Supercoppa Italiana. In the latter half of the 80s, the Serie A’s main rivalry was between Napoli and Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan. Milan had Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. Napoli had Careca, Alemao and Maradona.
In November 1988, defending champions Milan travelled to Napoli, who had come second the previous season. A Maradona-inspired Napoli eviscerated Milan, winning 4-1. It was Maradon’s goal that stood out. Sacchi had Milan playing a revolutionary high line at the time, and their defence, with Franco Baresi, Alesandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini, was probably the best in the world. But Maradona figured out the way Milan played and beat the famous Milanese off-side trap with a deftly timed run from deep midfield. To watch the replay, Maradona is like a fish swimming against an onrushing Milan tide, somehow slipping the net adroitly to find himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper Giovanni Galli. He’s still 25 yards out and Galli has come off his line. Maradona wires his body back and springs up into the bouncing ball, lobbing it over the onrushing Galli and into the net. Naples erupts with joy. No wonder some 515 children born between 1984 and 1991 in Naples were named Diego.
When Maradona juggled a ball
There’s no need for any description. Just Maradona, a football and ‘Live is Life’ by Opus. That’s all.
When Maradona bowed out with a wonder goal for Argentina
You could just as easily say “When Maradona bowed out with a failed dope test”. However, before he was thrown out of the 1994 World Cup, he scored one final cracker for Argentina against Greece in the first-round of the tournament. It was a game that Argentina were tipped to win, and indeed did so with a comfortable 4-0 score-line. Despite a hattrick by Gabriel Batistuta, it was Maradona’s goal, the third of the lot, that was the pick of the bunch. At 33, and fighting for fitness, he was playing as a withdrawn midfield creator behind Batistuta, Claudio Caniggia and Abel Balbo. On the 60th minute, Maradona played a lightning quick, one-touch, six-pass, give and go with two other players, all the while creeping towards the Greece penalty area. The sixth pass was from Fernando Redondo back to Maradona. Greece defenders were shell-shocked as Maradona took a touch inside the penalty are and let fly with his left foot. The top right of the net bulged. As did Maradona’s eyes as he ran towards a TV camera in a manic celebration. Nine days later came the news that he had failed a dope test. He was out.