Saturday, November 27

Legend Maradona dies aged 60



Diego Maradona, regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, has died aged 60.

The Argentinian, who had brain surgery this month, inspired his country to World Cup glory in 1986 when as captain he displayed a level of skill, creativity, strength and desire arguably not seen before or since. In the 2-1 quarter-final victory over England he also scored perhaps the greatest goal of all time, a match in which the forward also showed his darker, mischievous side with the infamous ‘Hand of God’.

Maradona also achieved success at club level, most notably with Napoli, whom he led to their first Serie A title in 1987. A second followed in 1990, alongside an Italian Cup in 1987 and a Uefa Cup in 1991, and such was the player’s impact at a club which previously had lived in the shadow of Italy’s northern powerhouses, particularly Juventus, Milan and Internazionale, that Napoli announced in 2000 that they were retiring his No 10 shirt.

It was during his seven years in Naples, however, that Maradona’s addiction to cocaine took grip. He was hit with a 15-month suspension for drug violations in 1991 – the year he left Napoli – and, three years later, was thrown out of the World Cup in the US after testing positive for ephedrine.

From there Maradona’s personal life spiralled out control and in 2000 and 2004 he was hospitalised for heart problems, the second time requiring the use of a respirator to breathe properly. The following year he underwent gastric-bypass surgery to help stem his obesity.

None of that, however, could overshadow his talents on the pitch which, at their peak, were almost supernatural.

Following his personal battles he managed Argentina for two years, taking them to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa where a team containing the likes of Juan Sebastian Veron, Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi reached the quarter-finals. A year later, and having left the national team post, he took charge of Dubai-based club Al-Wasl before going on to hold a number of positions, most recently manager of Argentinian first division side Gimnasia y Esgrima.

But it is for his playing exploits that Maradona will be best remembered. Having been named South American Footballer of the Year on five occasions, he was in 2000 named Fifa’s Player of the Century alongside Pele following a combination of an internet poll and nominations from Fifa officials, coaches and players. Maradona won the popular vote.

Born in Buenos Aires on 30 October 1960, Diego Armando Maradona was a child prodigy and having joined Los Cebollitas, a youth team of Argentinos Juniors, at the age of 10 he played a key role in them going on an incredible 136-game winning streak, which in turn led to him making his debut for the senior side just before his 16th birthday.

Shortly after – on 27 February 1977 –Maradona made his debut for Argentina, coming on as a 65th minute substitute in a friendly against Hungary at La Bombonera, the home of Boca Juniors’, whom Maradona joined in 1981. He spent only one season at the club but in that time scored a stunning solo goal against arch rivals River Plate and helped Boca to win the title.

Given his rapid development and consistently commanding displays, it was no surprise Maradona was soon being courted by Europe’s biggest clubs and in 1982, having featured at his first World Cup, in Spain, he joined Barcelona for a then world record fee of £5m.