Argentine football legend Diego Maradona has died aged 60. Arguably regarded as the greatest ever footballer, Mardona leaves behind a rich legacy tinged with controversy. Nicknamed 'The Golden Boy' in his youth, Maradona rose to the stature of a footballing God over the course of his career.
Maradona battled drug addiction and numerous health issues throughout his life and had undergone a surgery on November 3 to treat a blood clot in his brain. He was discharged on November 12 with doctors continuously monitoring his health.
During his storied 21-year career, Maradona played for some of the world's best clubs like Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli as well as turning out in the iconic blue and white striped of Argentina 91 times. Along with Brazil's Pele, Maradona was voted as the Greatest Footballer of the 20th century.
Starting out for Boca Juniors, Maradona moved to Barcelona for a then world-record fee of $7.6 million. Though he won the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup with Barcelona and won a rare standing ovation from arch-rivals Real Madrid, Maradona's time in Catalonia was often marred by injuries, illnesses and controversy.
The 1982-83 Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao was Maradona's final match for Barcelona and it ended in spectacular fashion. Having faced racist abuse from Bilbao fans throughout the match, Maradona lost his cool following an ill-timed tackle on him and let loose on Bilbao players. The match ended with a mass brawl between the two sides and Maradona kicking and punching anyone in Bilbao colours.
Another world-record fee later, Maradona finally found himself a spiritual home in Naples with Napoli. Adored by the Napoli faithful, Maradona led the southern Italian side to their first-ever Serie A title in 1987. During his time in Naples, Maradona won two league titles while also finishing runners-up a further two times. After his departure, Napoli officially retired his No 10 jersey.
Maradona captained Argentina to their second FIFA World Cup title in 1986 and was awarded the Golden Ball given to the best player of the tournament. The 1986 edition saw Maradona at his sublime best. As the creative lynchpin of his side, Maradona scored five goals and set up a further five as Argentina dazzled their way to the title.
However, it was the quarter-final match against England that truly brought out the best and the worst in him. A rare inter-continental rivalry, England and Argentina faced off in the quarter-final in backdrop of the Falkland's War. It was also the first competitive match between the two sides after their controversial meeting 20 years prior at the 1966 World Cup.
Naturally, Maradona stole all the limelight in the way only he could. He put Argentina into the lead by punching the ball into the net. Even as the English players protested, Maradona wheeled away in celebration. After the match, Maradona famously quipped that goal was scored "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God".
If the first goal showcased Maradona at his cunningest, the second was a testament to his precocious talent. Receiving the ball in his own half, he ran the entire length of the half past five English players before rounding off the goalkeeper and slotting the ball into the empty net. In a 2002 FIFA poll, the goal was voted as The Goal of the Century.
Even as he was God on the football pitch, Maradona was terribly human off it. El Dios, literally The God, battled cocaine addiction for much of his life. He reportedly picked it up during his injury-filled days in Barcelona and it reached its height during his stay in Naples where he reportedly got close to the mafia. His time in Italy ended when he failed a drug test for cocaine and was banned for 15 months.
Maradona was never the same again. Another failed drug test, this time at the 1994 World Cup, drew the curtains on his international career. Three years later, Maradona retired at his boyhood club, Boca Juniors.
Following years away from the limelight, Maradona threw his hat in for the national team manager's role in 2008. With his spiritual successor Lionel Messi leading the team on the pitch, much was expected from Argentina at the 2010 World Cup. However, Argentina crashed out in the quarter-finals.
In the last few years, Maradona's antics often went viral on social media be it his impassioned celebrations following one of Argentina's wins at the 2018 World Cup to dancing with his players in the dressing room following a win. For football fans however, Maradona will always be the wild-haired magician with a wand of a left foot.
Updated On: 2020-11-27T19:33:23+05:30