THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF DIEGO MARADONA
Late Tackle Football Magazine|February - March 2021
ROBERT J WILSON TAKES A LOOK BACK AT THE ARGENTINIAN LEGEND’S INCREDIBLE LIFE...
ROBERT J WILSON

KNOWN as El Pibe de Oro (The Golden Boy), Diego Maradona once revealed his ambitions for his career. Already at ease in front of a TV camera, the teenage sensation expressed his dreams for the future.

“I have two dreams - one is to play in the World Cup, and the other is to be champion with my team.”

If life is all about achieving dreams and goals, then they don’t get any better than that.

The secret was already out by then with the majority of Europe’s top clubs pursuing his signature from Boca Juniors, for whom he had scored 28 goals from just 40 starts. Barcelona would eventually win that particular race with a world record transfer fee of £5m in June 1982.

Barely a month later, his first taste of the World Cup (he was surprisingly left out of the 1978 winning squad) ended in defeat and disgrace against Brazil. With Argentina trailing 3-0 to their fiercest rivals, Maradona’s studs-up challenge on the Brazilian substitute Batista saw him sent off with just minutes left.

Four years later, though, and Maradona would fulfil his prophecy with stunning brilliance in the stifling heat of Mexico.

One-man teams do not exist, but undeniably during Mexico ’86, that is the closest you will ever see to it.

At the age of 25, Maradona had not only cemented his place as the finest player of his generation, but arguably as the best ever.

His virtuoso performances, most notably against his adopted country Italy and Uruguay in the group stages, the sworn enemy England in the quarter-final and Belgium in the semi-final transfixed world audiences.

Yes, he handled the ball past Peter Shilton to possibly ‘cheat’ England out of progression in the World Cup, but there was no denying that only he could go on and score a goal like the second one.

When he did what is now commonly known as a ‘Maradona turn’ to embark on that iconic burst from halfway, you could only admire the genius of the man. At just 5ft 5ins, his squat-like figure, with that low sense of gravity, eluded the trailing Peter Reid and Peter Beardsley before leaving Terry Fenwick, Terry Butcher and then Shilton totally bamboozled.

It was arguably the most beautiful thing ever seen on a football pitch, even if the consequence of it meant England were out of the World Cup.

Gary Lineker, who would win the Golden Boot in Mexico, thanks to his six goals to Diego’s five, later claimed that despite watching his own team carved open, he felt like applauding.

Yes, we wanted to throttle him for the ‘Hand of God’ mischief he spouted afterwards - but there is no doubt everyone who viewed that goal at that time knew they were witnessing true greatness.

It was quite simply the finest goal of the century and was later voted as such.

From that quarter-final onwards, Maradona’s life would never be the same again.

Following the Falkands War four years previously, Maradona had enacted the perfect revenge on the English.

The first by street-wise cheating. The other by unrivalled ability.

Both of those goals epitomised Diego Maradona. He once stated that quarter-final win felt like ‘beating a whole country, not just a football team’. Many Englishmen never forgave him but over the passing of time, many came to love him too.

West Germany did everything they possibly could to nullify his threat in the final and they nearly succeeded, but it was Maradona’s vision and subtlety of pass that released Jorge Burruchaga through on goal to win the World Cup.

Despite having Andreas Brehme, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and his man marker Lothar Matthaus in close proximity on halfway, Maradona adjusted his body perfectly to pop off a half volley straight through the heart of the German defence.

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