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Maradona: The Man, The Legend, The Mentalcase

Yup, he's eccentric. Yup, he scored with his hand. But we love him anyway: here's to Diego!

Posted Aug 24, 2010 by Shaun Edwards

When Diego Maradona was relieved of his position as the coach of the Argentinian national team, a large percentage of the football watching world were gutted at the prospect of no longer seeing the short, besuited man who resembled a mafia don dancing up and down the sidelines, passion all encompassing him in his desire for his team to succeed.  As a manager, Diego Maradona carried on his work as a player by really lighting up an already spectacular World Cup – the passion that he displayed no different from that of the young man who lit up the 1986 tournament in Mexico.

Mind you, it’s hardly surprising that Maradona seemed so comfortable in expressing himself at a tournament that he participated in an extra-ordinary four different times between 1982 and 1994, winning it once and reaching the final on another occasion, as well as breaking the record for the most appearances as a captain with 16 in total. 

Plaudits for Maradona aren’t exactly tricky to find, but it is without doubt the 1986 World Cup win that will be regarded as his greatest triumph.  He was quite frankly a footballing God during the tournament: over-seeing an Argentinian victory both as the team’s captain, and also winning the golden boot as the greatest player during the finals, ending up with a 3-2 triumph over West Germany during the final.

However, tempestuous as ever, Maradona’s whole worldview can be summed up by his performance against England in the quarter finals.  Firstly, he over-compensated for his low height by utilising his arm to put the ball in the England net, to uproar from every Englishman on the pitch.  Nonetheless, the goal stood, and England were behind.  Five minutes later, with every English fan watching hating him with every fibre of their being, the little genius received the ball inside his own half, rampaged up the field past five England players, skinned Peter Shilton and put the ball in the net.  It was without a doubt one of the greatest individual goals of all time, and in 2002 was named as the best strike in the history of the World Cup.

Though he captained his country again in 1990 and 1994, reaching the final in the former, Maradona couldn’t replicate the same success with his team, and in 1994 he was sent home after two games following a positive test for ephedrine, something Maradona claimed he had taken in as part of a foreign energy drink.  More recently Maradona also claimed that he carried an agreement with Fifa for him to use the drug pre-tournament in order for him to lose weight.

His club record was just as impressive as his international level, if not carrying the same repute, with goals to games record standing at an impressive 258 goals in 494 games, as well as winning the Spanish and Italian leagues and domestic cups with Barcelona and Napoli respectively.

It was only following his retirement in 1997 that Maradona’s darker side began to shine through:  he gained large amounts of weight, and his cocaine abuse became further and further documented, with various health scares occurring up until 2007, when there were various false claims of his death made in the worldwide media.  Though he ended up returning to the international football fold less than a year later. the coverage was a further reflection of just what a big impact the tiny Italian had on the international football consciousness.  Here's to the man!

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