Diego Maradona was a player and person that caused mixed emotions when his name was mentioned. On one side, Maradona was an artist on the field, a dribbler, a vocal captain, a pesky fighter for his team. On the other side, he was the perfect example of the price of fame and its excesses. Diego Maradona can best be described as unique, there has not truly ever been a soccer player quite like him on and off the field.
Unlike Pelé, Maradona’s career took off at the height of world soccers television boom, at his peak, Maradona was a human highlight reel, at his lowest he was an infamous celebrity at the lowest point of his career. Nevertheless, Maradona was a God in his native country of Argentina and a saint in Naples, where he took Napoli to heights it has never achieved again.
It can be said that Maradona single-handedly won a World Cup for Argentina, no player has dominated the World Cup as Maradona did in Mexico 86. Through the tough times, Maradona had been able to reinvent himself, first as a game show host, and at the end of his life as a head coach. Maradona will forever be remembered for his play on the field and condemned for his life off of it. For a new generation of fans, here are some interesting facts and records of “The Hand of God”, Diego Armando Maradona.
Where was Diego Maradona born?
The future best player in the world was born in an impoverished Buenos Aires slum known as Villa Fiorito. His family was extremely poor and he was one of seven children. He was born on October 30th, 1960, and was named after his father Diego.
Who were Maradona’s idols growing up?
Diego Maradona from an early age loved the game of soccer, his parents recollect him kicking a ball around from an early age. When he played for his youth team Los Cebollitas, word was getting around of a young boy who was excellent on the ball. Maradona would even show off his skill during intermissions of Argentine first division games.
Still, all great players have idols and Maradona in various interviews had shown admiration for three players, Brazilian playmaker Rivelino, winger George Best, who ironically, shares glaring similarities in regards to their careers, and Ricardo Bochini, an Argentine playmaker who played for Independiente.
Diego Maradona’s first professional team
Diego Maradona would play professionally for the first time wearing the jersey of Argentinos Juniors. Maradona made his professional debut at 15 versus Talleres de Cordoba. He would play five years at Argentinos and while his numbers were impressive the club did not win a league title.
While at Argentinos Juniors, Maradona played 166 games and scored an amazing 116 goals. After a long negotiation process, Maradona would join Boca Juniors, one of Argentina’s biggest clubs, for an unheard-of sum in Argentine soccer of $4 million dollars.
Maradona wins his first professional title
Maradona would only play one season at Boca Juniors, the team he had admitted supporting since his youth, while at Boca he would play 40 games and score 28 goals en route to winning the 1981 Metropolitano.
Boca Juniors would become a sort of crutch for Maradona during the ladder parts of his career, he would either be in the stands supporting them after various doping suspensions, or he would later play for them in the final stages of his career.
Maradona moves to Barcelona his first European club
To be frank, Maradona’s skill and level of play were just too much to stay in Argentine soccer for very long, he would move for a record $7.6 million dollar transfer to Spanish giants Barcelona and he would be given the number 10 jersey. Maradona’s time in Barcelona can be described as incomplete, he was only able to play in 36 league games but scored an amazing 22 goals. In a derby match against Real Madrid, he was applauded by the Madrid fans for his display on the field. He would win the Copa del Rey but he would later have a bout of hepatitis, which would sideline him, only later to have his ankle broken in a league game by Athletic Bilbao's Andoni Goikoetxea. Maradona was out of action for three months.
Maradona’s time at Barcelona was a mixed bag of amazing play and scuffles with the Barcelona board, sound familiar? It is rumored that during his spell in Spain, Maradona began consuming cocaine, and at the end of the 1983/1984 season in the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao, once again Maradona received another rough tackle by Goikoetxea, and the match ended with an on-field brawl. The fight took place in front of the Spanish Royal Family. It would mark the end of his Barcelona career, in total Maradona played 58 games and scored 38 goals winning three domestic cups.
The savior of Napoli
Diego Maradona moved to Napoli after two injury-plagued and rough seasons at Barcelona, when he arrived, he was greeted like a God, and he promised to take Napoli to the top of Italian soccer. Maradona did more than that, he catapulted Napoli to one of the best teams in the world.
While at Napoli, Maradona played a total of 259 games and scored 115 goals, he was the captain of the club’s most successful era, winning two Italian Serie A titles, 1 Coppa Italia, an Italian Super Cup, and 1 international tournament the UEFA Cup in 1988/1989 season.
Shrines have been built in his honor at Naples, his number 10 jersey has been retired, and it was during this time where media and soccer players alike began stating that Maradona was the best player they had ever seen and quite possibly the best player of all time.
With his God-like treatment in Argentina and in Naples, Maradona began to live a life of immense excess. His cocaine use began to spiral out of control and he began to miss team practices and associate with organized crime figures. After the 1990 World Cup, where Argentina knocked out Italy in the semifinals in a heated media circus that Maradona fueled by bringing up the social divide between the north and south of Italy, Maradona was a marked man.
At the start of the 1990/91 season, Maradona tested positive for cocaine and would be handed a 15-month ban from playing soccer. His seven years in Napoli ended in disgrace and was the culmination of early warning signs that Maradona’s life had spun out of control.
The World Champion with Argentina
Diego Maradona won his only World Cup with Argentina in 1986 in a tournament he dominated from beginning to end. Argentina was not a clear favorite and in fact, the team qualified by the skin of their teeth, nonetheless Argentina went on a tear in the tournament. Argentina defeated South Korea and Bulgaria and tied Italy in group play to finish first.
In the round of 16, they would eliminate Uruguay and would meet England in the quarterfinals. It was his game against England that cemented Maradona as the world's best player. He would score the Hand of God goal when he hit the ball with his hand to drive it into the net to give Argentina the lead. Then he would score the greatest goal in World Cup history dribbling past five English players and goalkeeper Peter Shilton to secure the victory.
Argentina would defeat West Germany 3-2 in the finals and Maradona would play the best soccer of his career in that tournament with 5 goals in 7 games. In total Maradona played 4 World Cups, in Spain 82, Mexico 86, Italy 90, where Argentina was a finalist, but would lose 1-0 to West Germany, and USA 94.
Maradona played a total of 91 games and scored 34 goals for Argentina, his last goal coming in the 1994 World Cup, where he would be ejected from the tournament following a positive doping test. Officially, Maradona won 2 senior titles with Argentina and 1 youth tournament. Until the 1986 World Cup, he felt much of the pressure Lionel Messi feels today when playing for his national team, it was after the 86 World Cup that Maradona became a God-like figure in Argentina where it seemed that everything he did was forgiven.
Diego Maradona’s Post-1990 Career
After the 1990 World Cup, Maradona had unofficially retired from the National team, he would later face a 15-month ban after testing positive for cocaine at Napoli. When his ban was lifted, he tried to resume his career in Sevilla of Spain, despite a decent start, his life of excess had continued and he played 1 season. He would return to his home country of Argentina and would play for Newell’s Old Boys, but it was short-lived, Maradona played only 5 games for the club.
With his career rock bottom, and all but over, Argentina was struggling to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the United States. They would need to play a playoff with Australia and as a last hurrah Maradona would return to the national team, after an intense training regimen, he would return and after Argentina defeated Australia, he was named to the 1994 World Cup squad.
Maradona visibly not in his best form went to the World Cup and scored his final goal for his national team in a 4-0 pounding of Greece in the first round of the tournament. Despite playing his best game against Nigeria, Maradona would test positive for the banned substance of ephedrine, and it would end his international career, and shortly after Argentina would be eliminated.
He would coach two teams as he went through his ban, but with little success, in 1995 he would return to soccer to play for Boca Juniors. His time at Boca Juniors was more a celebration of his career rather than anything else. He played on and off from 1995- 1997, and after rumors of another failed drug test he officially retired in 1997.
How many teams did Maradona coach?
Maradona coached a total of 7 teams in his career, with mixed results, His time in Deportivo Mandiyú and Racing can be seen as just something to do while he served his suspension. He did coach Argentina for two years and coached them in the 2010 World Cup making it to the quarterfinals, after a 4-0 loss to Germany he left his position after disagreements with the Federation bosses.
He coached Fujairah Football Club in the UAE, Dorados in the second division in Mexico, and the final team he coached was Gimnasia de La Plata of the Argentine first division. In total, he had a 66-31-42 record as a coach having won no titles.
How many titles did Maradona win?
In his rollercoaster career, Diego Maradona won a total of 11 championships, 2 with Argentina, 1 with Boca Juniors, 3 with Barcelona, and 5 with Napoli.
How many goals did Maradona score in his career?
Diego Maradona scored a total of 312 goals in 588 official matches at the club level and 34 goals in 91 games for Argentina. He was the top scorer of the Argentine league on 5 occasions and was Napoli’s all-time top scorer from the years 1991-2017.
Maradona’s life off the field
To describe Maradona’s life off the field one must thread lightly. Maradona lived a life of immense excess, from cocaine abuse, heart problems, near-death experiences, stomach surgeries, and political views that hurt his public image. Maradona was a mixed bag of profound admiration for the player he once was to the profound disdain for some of his antics in life.
Maradona through all his trials and tribulations was able to reinvent himself on various occasions, while suspended, he coached teams, after soccer, he was a game show host and the subject of various books and documentaries. He also co-authored his autobiography telling his version of the story, although his book only took on his career not his private life.
Maradona officially recognized being the father of 5 children, although he could have up to 8, and there have been rumors that he has well over 10 with various women. His anti-Americanism led to a revoked US VISA and he was an admirer of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Evo Morales, and Hugo Chávez. Maradona also had a church devoted to him known as the Church of Diego Maradona, which has its own masses and prayers.
Diego Maradona’s Individual accomplishments
Maradona along with Pelé was named FIFA player of the century in 1999, he was South American player of the year on two occasions, he received the award for Goal of the Century by FIFA in 2004, he was on the World Cup dream team in 2002, and entered the Italian football hall of fame in 2014, along with other awards.
The best way to describe Diego Maradona for American sports fans is with his quote from The Houston Chronicle: To understand the gargantuan shadow Maradona casts over his football-mad homeland, one has to conjure up the athleticism of Michael Jordan, the power of Babe Ruth – and the human fallibility of Mike Tyson. Lump them together in a single barrel-chested man with shaggy black hair and you have El Diego, idol to the millions who call him D10S, a mashup of his playing number and the Spanish word for God.
How did Diego Maradona die?