Diego Maradona passes away but his legacy lives on in the football world
”He is gone but he has not left us, because Diego is eternal.” One of the few tributes paid to the Legendary Argentine from his fellow countryman Lionel Messi who was inspired by the Genius of Diego Maradona. The football world had been deeply affected by the death of an absolute legend and a man many regard as a god of the game.
He died on the 25th of November 2020 at the age of 60 but leaves behind a legacy and influence that will see him live forever.
For many, he remains the best ever to grace the sport and was even named the player of the century by FIFA back in 2000 before a change in the rules saw the Argentine legend share the award with fellow Brazilian Pele.
Maradona started his football career at Argentinos Juniors, who gave him his professional debut at the age of 15. Just a year later, he had already shown his worth and it’s no surprise he was selected for the Argentina national team.
In his five years with Argentinos Juniors, Diego Maradona was their star player who boasted an outstanding goal record of 116 goals scored in 166 games played. As a youngster he was already one of the best and it was evident he was set for the very top of his career.
Aged 20, Maradona made his first career move to one of Argentina’s top clubs, Boca Juniors for £1 million where he only spent 18 months. He scored on his debut for the club in their 4-1 win two days after he was announced. Boca Juniors ended up winning the Argentine domestic League and that was his only title win in his native country for his entire career.
Maradona played in his first world cup in 1982 aged 21 where he scored twice but couldn’t get the then defending champions further than the second round. Despite this, the world had already taken notice of the phenomenal talent before their eyes with Barcelona breaking the bank to secure Maradona for a world record fee of £5million at the time.
Though he won three major honors in his time playing for the Catalan club, a career-threatening injury caused by a gruesome tackle and an illness on the pitch as well as disputes with the board and allegations of drug abuse made his two years at Barcelona an up and down one. It was inevitable that he was going to leave the club
Soon after he made another world record move to Italian giants Napoli where he was influential in the club’s most successful spell in their history.
He won five major titles in Naples including the UEFA cup in his seven years at the club with a goals tally 81 goals in 188 appearances. It was also fitting that with Maradona they won their first ever Serie A title. He won yet another league title with the Partenopei in the 1989/90 season and it’s evident why he is seen as a God in Naples and respected all over the city.
The 1986 world cup though, would become the crowning moment of Diego Maradona’s legacy as he was unplayable throughout the tournament which he won for his nation as captain.
The quarter-finals of that tournament against England showed the two sides of a footballing genius as he scored a goal by handling the ball past Peter Shilton and into the back of the net.
“The goal was scored a little bit by the hand of God, another bit by the head of Maradona.”
His second goal in that match was arguably the greatest ever scored in the history of the tournament. Maradona made a solo run for 60 yards, going past every England player that came before him before slotting home after dribbling past the English keeper as well. It was voted the goal of the century and rightly so.
He captained his Nation once again in 1990 but could not repeat their previous success, falling short in the final to a late West Germany penalty. Individually, Maradona did not hit the form from the previous tournament.
After leaving Napoli in 1991, he subsequently failed a cocaine drug test and it spelled the beginning of a painful decline for the world’s best player.
Spells at Newell’s Old Boys, Sevilla and a second stint at Boca Juniors were generally underwhelming because he was not the player he once was.
His final appearance at a world cup was in 1994 but after two games, he failed another drug test and was sent home. He was capped 91 times with a goal return of 34 goals for his country and till today is regarded as the greatest to ever play for La Albiceleste.
He is gone now but he will never be forgotten. His storied career and his magnetic character as a person has seen him gather so many admirers in the world of football and beyond.
It is no surprise that the football world have paid ultimate respects to him and he is getting all sorts of tributes from all over. Right after his death, the presidents of Argentina declared three days for his morning and as it stands Napoli have also agreed to rename their stadium after the late legend.
In the Serie A last week, all games took a break in the 10th minute in honor of Maradona while other leagues across Europe paid homage to him with a minute’s silence and clapping before kick-offs.
Many might feel he is gone too soon but his legacy is something that will live on from generation to generation. From Argentina to South America and all over the world at large, no one can deny we were blessed with a genius on the pitch and Maradona was always a joy to watch whenever it was in front of him.
You will be sorely missed, Diego.