A Tribute To... Diego Maradona
Today's "A Tribute To..." looks at the man who gripped the world with his awesome skills and ball-control, Diego Maradona.
Love him or hate him, everyone marvelled at the footballing genius of Diego Armando Maradona. He was perhaps the most exciting player to step onto a football pitch. You knew that when the ball fell to his feet (or his hand) that something magical could be about to happen.
Born on October 30th, 1960, Diego Maradona was born to a poor family, and so had to practise his football in the back alleys of a shantytown. It soon became apparent that he had special footballing talent, and he was quickly snapped up by Argentinos Juniors.
He made his debut for them at just 15 years old, and impressed so much that he was selected for Argentina, and made his debut at 16 years of age. Over the next five years, Maradona would become the star at Argentinos Juniors, with a fantastic goals to games ratio, scoring 116 goals in 166 appearances. A phenomenal feat for a youngster.
At 20 years old, Maradona signed for Boca Juniors, one of Argentina's biggest clubs, for £1 million. He would only stay at Boca for one and a half years, however, before moving on to yet bigger and better things.
In 1982, Maradona was selected for his first World Cup tournament. Argentina were defending champions and many were looking for the team to repeat the performances of four years previously.
Despite Maradona bagging two goals, he couldn't help his team to further than the second round. However, at just 21 he had experienced his first World Cup, playing every minute until he was sent off against Brazil with just five minutes left on the clock.
The World Cup had also alerted the world to the talent of this young boy from Buenos Aires. FC Barcelona broke the bank to sign him, paying a then world record fee of £5m to secure his services.
His time at Barcelona, however, didn't go as planned. An illness and then a career-threatening tackle nearly made it £5m wasted. But Maradona wouldn't let that get in his way. He was soon back on the pitch strutting his stuff.
However, it was off the pitch that the main problems lay for him. Frequent disputes with Barcelona board members, and rumoured cocaine abuse was enough for him to demand a transfer from the Nou Camp.
He joined Serie A side Napoli for another world record fee, this time £7 million. It was here that he enjoyed his most successful period as a player, and guided Napoli to the most successful period in their history.
It was 1986 where his finest hour would come. He captained his country to the World Cup in Mexico. He dominated the tournament, running rings around the best of defenders on his way to scoring five goals and providing five assists.
It was in the quarter-final that showed the two sides of Maradona better than ever. His first goal was the infamous "Hand of God," which everyone in the world apart from the referee noticed Maradona had actually handled into the net.
Yet the second goal showcased his genius. He dribbled 60 yards past all the England players that came before him, including goalkeeper Peter Shilton on his way to scoring the goal that was voted Goal of the Century.
He went on to score two more goals in the semi-final and provided the assist for the winning goal in the final, ensuring that he, the best player in the world, would lift the World Cup.
In 1990 Maradona captained his country to another World Cup, and once again got them all the way to the final. However, his performances didn't hit the heights of four years previously. Argentina lost 1-0 to West Germany to a penalty late on.
Maradona left Napoli after seven years at the club and cementing his place as the greatest player in their history. This also came after he had failed a drugs test for cocaine. The demise of one of the greatest players ever had begun.
He had stints at Sevilla, Newell's Old Boys and a return to Boca, but he was a shadow of the player he once was.
Still, he managed to make it to the 1994 World Cup but after just two games, he failed another drugs test and was sent home.
In his international career he managed 34 goals in 91 caps.
Often regarded as one of the top two best of all time on a football pitch, this has been a tribute to Diego Maradona.
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