Barely two weeks ago, the Brazilian Pelé celebrated his 80th birthday, and thus the perhaps two biggest football profiles of all time have marked years in a short time.
Maradona dominated in his home country from the age of 15. But he was not allowed to play the World Cup at home in 1978. He was wrecked from the squad as a 17-year-old. Coach César Luis Menotti was criticized after the withdrawal, but was quickly forgiven when Argentina took the gold.
Maradona’s merits mean that many football experts keep him as the best football player of all time ahead of Pelé.
Unlike compatriot Lionel Messi, Maradona is world champion (Mexico 1986). It was also the championship where the Argentine used his hand to score against England. In the same match, Maradona’s dribbler came to decide.
– If I could turn back time and do something different, I might have done it. But Argentina became world champion and I the world’s best player, Maradona said a few years ago.
Off the field, Maradona had his demons to fight against. According to him, drug use must have started in Naples and lasted for many years.
– Think which player I would have been without cocaine in my blood? I would have achieved much more, Maradona said in a TV documentary in 2010.
The superlatives about Maradona are many and large from football’s personalities:
Messi: – Even if I played for a million years, I would not come close to Maradona. He is the best football player of all time.
Eric Cantona: – Some say that Pelé is the best, but for me Maradona is always the greatest. The big difference between the two is that Pelé was always surrounded by good players, while Maradona often had to leave the team a lot alone.
Michel Platini: – What Zinédine Zidane could do with a ball, Maradona did with an orange.
Carlos Tevez: – Diego is for all Argentines God, and so it will be forever.
Glenn Hoddle: – Let’s be honest: Maradona won the World Cup in 1986 alone. The rest of his team was ordinary.
Brutal everyday life
Maradona played and lost 0-1 in Norway in 1986. It happened on a wet Ullevaal lawn in April. There, his Argentina started the run-up to what was to turn out to be a World Cup gold a couple of months later.
At a time when attacking players were completely wild and were often brutally tackled without the referee giving more than a free kick, Maradona had his heyday. He himself has said that after almost every match he was full of bruises from his foot and a little up on his leg. He was downright cut down time and time again.
In southern Italy, he was a national hero after leading a fairly ordinary Napoli team to the club’s first league gold in the spring of 1987. The company was repeated three seasons later. Maradona’s status rose to almost religious heights among the Neapolitans. Among other things, he was called the football pope.
Farewell to scandal
During the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Maradona disappeared from the championship after a positive doping test. It contained a cocktail of illicit drugs.
Four years earlier, he was close to leading Argentina’s very limited team to World Cup gold in Italy. West Germany won the final 1-0. “This is my bitterest defeat of my career,” Maradona said in 2010.
After his playing career (resigned in 1997), Maradona has tried several times as a coach, also for Argentina’s national team, but it did not end in more than average results. He lost his job after the 2010 World Cup.
Maradona is currently a coach in his home country at Gimnasia de la Plata.
Maradona has had major health problems since retiring, struggling with solid obesity and undergoing two heart surgeries.
On several occasions over the years, there have been stubborn rumors about his death. The last time this happened was during the 2018 World Cup. Then Maradona collapsed after the match between Nigeria and Argentina. It turned out that he had drunk too much white wine and blessed before he was taken care of by health personnel.
Maradona was cursed by the rumors and promised 80,000 kroner to whoever knew who had posted the information on WhatsApp.