Maradona’s best moments
1) 1979 World Youth Championship
Diego Maradona wasted no time in announcing his talent. On his first senior appearance in 1977, for Argentinos Juniors of Buenos Aires, the 5ft 5in 16-year-old nutmegged Jose Daniel Valencia of Talleres. Valencia was an Argentina international, one of six in the Talleres team. One incredulous reporter noted that “Diego could not care less.” César Luis Menotti didn’t select Maradona for Argentina’s upcoming World Cup, explaining: “He is too young this time, but I think he will be captain in 1982”. Maradona made no fuss in missing out on the subsequent ticker-taped triumph, instead leading the kids to glory at the 1979 Fifa World Youth Championship. He was player of the tournament, scoring six goals including a deal-sealing free kick in the final that landed in the back of the USSR net.
2) Mexico ‘86
Proper World Cup glory arrived seven years later. Brazil and France were the hot tips, with Uruguay, Denmark and hosts Mexico the hip ones. Maradona, Argentina’s only world star, was carrying a knee injury and also wore odd-sized boots, the legacy of a mangled ankle at Barcelona. The stars were far from alignment, but Maradona teased them into order again and again. A clever goal against reigning champs Italy was followed by second-round mastery of Uruguay. Then the piece de resistance: the field-long sashay against England. Or was it the even-more-intricate ramble which saw off Belgium? Or the defence-splitting pass to set up the winner in the final? Yeah, yeah, the Hand of God … but it’s fair to say that on the spiritual and artistic ledger, he came out of this tournament well in credit.
3) Napoli’s first Scudetto
No team south of Rome had won Serie A before Maradona pitched tent in Naples in 1984. Napoli only had two Coppa Italias to their name. But the outsider status of both city and club suited Maradona perfectly. He became the heartbeat of a team which would win two Scudettos, in 1987 and 1990, a Coppa Italia in 1987, and the Uefa Cup in 1989. The first time is always the most memorable, though, and in Naples the street parties went on for days, with mock funerals being staged for the Old Lady. Maradona was immortalised by several large murals. He left in 1991, under something of a cloud, accused of living life a little too fast and loose. But that never stopped the club retiring his No 10 shirt.
4) Divides Italy … and conquers
Few thought Argentina had any chance of retaining the World Cup in 1990: dismally out of form, they had won just one of their previous 10 matches, and that against Israel. They were then shocked by Cameroon in the opening match of the tournament. But Maradona had other ideas, turning the ship around through sheer force of will. Against the USSR, he used his godlike