Diego Maradona is considered by many as the greatest footballer of all time. He led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986 and was named as the best player of the tournament.
However, for all his brilliance, Maradona was never far from controversy. He outraged English fans by punching the ball into the net in the World Cup quarter final in 1986, a goal that ultimately eliminated England from the tournament. He was also kicked out of the World Cup in 1994 after failing a drugs test.
With Diego Maradona, there was always a story. His incredible career was littered with brilliance, trophies and awards, but there was also scandal and disgrace.
In the beginning – cheeky bid from Sheffield United
Maradona’s first club was Argentinos Juniors where he made his debut just before his sixteenth birthday. He flourished there and made 167 appearances for the club. Sheffield United made a cheeky £180,000 bid for him but it was rejected.
Maradona’s goalscoring record was outstanding with 115 goals in five seasons. It was enough to convince Boca Juniors to pay a £1m fee to secure his services. Maradona scored freely for Boca and helped them win the league championship in 1982.
First taste of the World Cup
Having made his international debut aged just 16 in 1977, Maradona was disappointed not to be selected for the World Cup squad in 1978. There was pressure from the Argentinian public for the teenage star to be included but the coach was proven right as Argentina lifted the trophy without Maradona.
Four years on, however, it was unthinkable to leave him out of the team. He played in all five of Argentina’s games and scored twice in a victory over Hungary.
Unfortunately for Maradona though, that was the highlight of his tournament as defeats to Brazil and then Italy saw the defending champions eliminated in the second round.
Maradona also showed his petulant side after he was sent off against Brazil for serious foul play.
Big money move to Barcelona
After showcasing his talents to the world, Maradona was now the hottest property in South American football. After just one full season with Boca Juniors, most of Europe’s big clubs now had an eye on him. It was Barcelona that won the race for his signature, paying £5m for him in 1982.
He helped the team win the Copa del Rey in 1983 as they beat fierce rivals Real Madrid, and also the Spanish Super Cup with a victory over Athletico Bilbao.
Maradona had a difficult time at Barcelona as he suffered illness and injury that threatened to end his career. He also didn’t get on with the club president, and after 22 goals in two seasons, he left for Italian side Napoli for a world record fee of £6.9m.
Maradona stars for Napoli – Read more