Diego Maradona

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Diego Maradona
Maradona in July 2006.
Personal information
Full name Diego Armando Maradona
Date of birth October 30, 1960
Place of birth Villa Fiorito, Argentina
Height 166 cm (5 ft 5 in)
Nickname El Diez, Pelusa, El Pibe de Oro
Position Striker / Midfielder
Youth clubs
1970-76 Argentinos Juniors
Professional clubs*
Years Club Apps (goals)
Argentinos Juniors
Boca Juniors
FC Barcelona
SSC Napoli
Sevilla FC
Newell's Old Boys
Boca Juniors
166 (116)
42 (28)
58 (38)
259 (115)
29 (7)
5 (0)
29 (7)
588 (311)
National team
1977-94 Argentina 91 (34)

* Professional club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only.

Diego Armando Maradona (born October 30, 1960), is a former Argentine football player. He is regarded by many as the greatest footballer of all time , as well as one of the most controversial. Maradona, like many South American footballers, came from poor beginnings; in his case from a shanty town known as Villa Fiorito, just outside of Buenos Aires. He won various trophies with Boca Juniors, FC Barcelona and SSC Napoli over the course of his career. During an international career that included 91 caps and 34 goals, he played in four FIFA World Cup tournaments, inspiring the Argentina national team to victory over West Germany in 1986, in which he collected the Golden Ball award as best player. A controversial figure, he was suspended for 15 months in 1991 after a failed doping test for cocaine in Italy, and then again for ephedrine during the 1994 World Cup.

After retirement from football on October 30, 1997 , he suffered ill-health and weight gain subsequent to a long-standing problem with cocaine abuse. However, a stomach stapling operation helped control his weight gain, and, after overcoming his cocaine addiction, he became a TV host in Argentina .

Football style

Maradona had a short, strong physique and could withstand physical pressure well. His strong legs and low centre of gravity gave him an advantage in short sprints . This is illustrated by his two goals against Belgium in the 1986 World Cup. He was a strategist, a team player, as well as highly technical with the ball, and could manage himself effectively in limited spaces, attracting defenders only to quickly dash out of the melee (as in the second goal against England), or give an assist to a free teammate. Being short, but strong, he could hold the ball long enough with a defender on his back to wait for a teamate making a run or to find a gap for a quick shot.

One of Maradona's trademark moves was dribbling full-speed as a left wing, and on reaching the opponent's goal line, delivering accurate passes to his teammates that many times proved lethal. Another trademark was the Rabona or reverse-cross pass (shot behind the leg that holds all the weight), with which he provided several assists, such as the powerful cross for Ramón Díaz's header in the 1980 friendly against Switzerland. He was also a dangerous free kick taker.

Early years

Diego Armando Maradona was born in Villa Fiorito, a shantytown on the southern outskirts of Buenos Aires , to a poor family that had moved from Corrientes Province. He was the first son after three daughters. He has two younger brothers, Hugo (el Turco) and Eduardo (Lalo), both of whom were also professional footballers.

At age 10, Maradona was spotted by a talent scout while he was playing in his neighbourhood club Estrella Roja. He became a staple of Los Cebollitas (The Little Onions), the junior team of Buenos Aires side Argentinos Juniors. As a ball-boy at the age of 12, in first division games, he amused spectators by showing his wizardry with the ball during the halftime intermissions.

Club career

Maradona's Boca 1981 match-worn shirt, in his first season with his favourite team that he led to win the Argentine Apertura Metropolitan league
Maradona's Boca 1981 match-worn shirt, in his first season with his favourite team that he led to win the Argentine Apertura Metropolitan league

Maradona made his professional debut on October 20, 1976 ten days before his sixteenth birthday, with Argentinos Juniors , where he played between 1976 and 1981 before his £1.0m transfer to the club that he supported, Boca Juniors, where he played during the remainder of the 1981 season and 1982 and secured his first league title.

After the 1982 World Cup, in June, Maradona was transferred to FC Barcelona in Spain for a then World Record £5.0m. In 1983, under coach César Luis Menotti, Barcelona and Maradona won the Copa del Rey (Spain's annual national cup competition), beating Real Madrid. However, Maradona had a difficult tenure in Barcelona ; first a bout with hepatitis, and then an ill-timed tackle by Athletic Bilbao's Andoni Goikoetxea that put Maradona's career on the line ; Maradona's physical strength and willpower made it possible for him to be back on the pitch after only 14 weeks. It is said that while playing for Barcelona, Maradona was introduced to cocaine, to which he would become addicted.

The Napoli era

Image:Maradona 1985.jpg
Maradona with now retired shirt Napoli's #10.

Maradona got into frequent disputes with Barcelona's directors, especially club president Josep Lluís Nuñez and in 1984 he demanded a transfer out of Nou Camp. He subsequently went to Serie A and SSC Napoli for another record fee, £6.9m, and became an adored star among the club's fans, as he elevated the team to its most successful era. Napoli won their only Italian Championships (1986/87 and 1989/1990), a Coppa Italia (1987), a UEFA Cup (1989) and an Italian Supercup (1990). Napoli were also runners-up in the Italian Championship twice (1987/88 and 1988/89).

In Naples, Maradona was present throughout a transformation of the local club. They had traditionally been overshadowed by the teams from the industrial cities in the north, but Maradona's arrival (along with Careca and others) brought them a first scudetto in 1987 , followed by a second in 1990, and cup successes. However, he also faced a scandal there regarding an illegitimate son and was the object of some suspicion over his friendship with the Camorra, the local mafia.

Maradona left Napoli in 1992, after serving a 15-month ban for failing the drug test for cocaine, and played for Sevilla FC (1992–93), Newell's Old Boys (1993) and Boca Juniors (1995–97). He also attempted to work as a coach on two short stints, leading Mandiyú of Corrientes (1994) and Racing Club (1995) without much success. He retired from football on October 30, 1997; his 37th birthday.

International career

Maradona and the Youth World Cup trophy in 1979.
Maradona and the Youth World Cup trophy in 1979.

He debuted with the Argentina national football team ("la selección"), at age 16, against Hungary. At age 18, he played the Football World Youth Championship for Argentina, and was the star of the tournament, shining in their 3–1 final win over the USSR team.

1982 World Cup

Maradona played his first World Cup tournament in 1982. In the first round, Argentina, the defending champions, lost to Belgium. Although the team convincingly beat Hungary and El Salvador to progress to the second round, they were defeated in the second round by Italy, the eventual winners. Maradona played in all five matches without being substituted, scoring twice against Hungary, but was sent off with 5 minutes remaining in the game against Brazil for serious foul play.

1986 World Cup

Maradona captained the Argentine national team to victory in the 1986 FIFA World Cup, the team winning the final against West Germany. Throughout the 1986 World Cup, Maradona asserted his dominance and was the best player of the tournament. He played every minute of every game, scored 5 goals and made 5 assists. However, it was the two goals he scored in the quarter-final game against England which cemented his legend. Action replay footage showed that the first goal was scored with the aid of his hand. He later claimed it was the " Hand of God" and described it as "a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God," implying that God was ultimately responsible for the goal, because the referee had missed the handball offense. However, on 22 August 2005 Maradona acknowledged on his television show that he hit the ball with his hand purposely and that he immediately knew the goal was illegitimate. He recalled thinking right after the goal that

Diego Maradona
I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me, and no one came . . . I told them, 'Come hug me, or the referee isn't going to allow it.'
Diego Maradona

After the game, Maradona was confronted about his goal. He was quoted saying to the reporters "Even if there was a hand, it must have been the hand of God." Thus giving him and his goal the nickname, the Hand of God, or in his own language, la mano de dios.

In contrast, Maradona's second goal in the England game was a display of Maradona's talented dribbling ability. He picked up the ball in his own half, swiveled around and ran more than half the length of the field, dribbling past five English players ( Glenn Hoddle, Peter Reid, Kenny Sansom, Terry Butcher, and Terry Fenwick) as well as goalkeeper Peter Shilton. This goal was voted Goal of the Century in a 2002 online poll conducted by FIFA. Argentina held on to defeat England 2-1 in that game, knocking them out of the tournament. The two goals were ranked 6th in the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments in 2002 by the UK's Channel 4 television channel.

He followed this with two other goals in the semi-final against Belgium. In the final, the opposing German side attempted to subdue him by double-marking but he nevertheless found the space to give the final service to Jorge Burruchaga for the winning goal. Argentina beat West Germany 3-2 and Maradona lifted the World Cup trophy after dominating the tournament like no other player, before or since.

1990 World Cup

Maradona captained Argentina again in the 1990 FIFA World Cup. An ankle injury affected his overall performance, and he was much less dominant than four years earlier. In the round of 16 match against Brazil, he assisted Claudio Caniggia on the winning goal (1-0) that allowed his team to advance to the next round. Argentina then faced Yugoslavia in quarterfinals, with the match ending 0-0 after 120 minutes, and Argentina advancing on penalty kicks. Maradona missed one of the penalty kicks, but his team still won 3-2. He scored Argentina's final penalty in the semi-final shoot-out win against the host nation Italy. In the final, Argentina lost 1-0 to West Germany due to a dubious penalty decision in the 85th minute.

1994 World Cup

He arrived at the 1994 FIFA World Cup and played two games (scoring one goal) before being sent home after failing a drug test for ephedrine doping. In his autobiography, Maradona argued that the test result was due to his personal trainer giving him the power drink Rip Fuel. The US version, unlike the Argentinian, contained the chemical and Maradona claimed that, having run out of his Argentinian dosage, his trainer bought the US drink, not realizing the difference in formula. FIFA subsequently expelled him from USA '94 and the Argentinians, affected by his absence, went home in the second round. Maradona has also separately claimed that he had an agreement, on which FIFA later reneged, to allow him to use the drug for weight loss before the competition in order to be able to play, so that the World Cup would not lose prestige because of his absence. This allegation was never proved, and many attribute his comment ("they cut off my legs") to Diego's anger at being suspended.

Retirement and honours

In 2000, Maradona published his autobiography Yo Soy El Diego ("I am The Diego"), which became an instant bestseller in his home country. Later, in 2002, Maradona donated the Cuban royalties of his book to "the Cuban people and Fidel."

Also in 2000, while Napoli retired the number 10 jersey in his honour, FIFA conducted an poll on the Internet, to find the Player of the Century. Maradona, with 53.6% of the votes, was a clear winner. After Brazilian commentators claimed the voting was flawed (as a younger internet demographic would have likely seen Maradona play, but not Pele), FIFA appointed a "Football Family" committee of football experts, which voted to elect Pelé to the title. Maradona protested at the change of decision procedure and declared he would not attend the ceremony if Pele was chosen. Eventually, two awards were made, one to each of the pair: Maradona accepted his prize, but left the awards ceremony without waiting to see Pelé receive his accolade.

In 2001, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) asked FIFA for authorization to retire the jersey number 10 as an homage to Maradona. FIFA did not grant the request, even though Argentine officials have maintained that FIFA hinted that it would.

Maradona has won other polls, including a 2002 FIFA poll in which his second goal against England was chosen as the best goal ever scored in a World Cup; he also won the most votes in a poll to determine the All-Time Ultimate World Cup Team.

Asociación Atlética Argentinos Juniors named the team's stadium after Maradona on December 26, 2003.

On 22 June 2005, it was announced that Maradona would return to Boca Juniors as a sports vice president in charge of managing the First Division roster (after a disappointing 2004–05 season, which coincided with Boca's centenary) . His contract began 1 August 2005, and one of his first recommendations proved to be very effective: he was the one who decided to hire Alfio Basile as the new coach. With Maradona having a close relationship with the players, Boca went on to win the 2005 Apertura title, the 2006 Clausura title, the 2005 Copa Sudamericana and the 2005 Recopa Sudamericana.

On 15 August 2005, Maradona made his debut as host of a talk-variety show on Argentine television, La Noche del 10 ("The Night of the no. 10"). His main guest on opening night was Pelé; the two had a friendly chat, showing no signs of past differences. In subsequent evenings, he led the ratings on all occasions but one. Most guests were drawn from the worlds of football and show business, including Zidane, Ronaldo and Hernán Crespo, but also included interviews with other notable personalities such as Fidel Castro and Mike Tyson.

During 2006, Maradona remained aloof of day-to-day activities and was seen mostly on game days, cheering the Boca from his private box in the Bombonera. On August 26, 2006, it was announced that Maradona was quitting his position in the club Boca Juniors because of disagreements with the AFA, who selected Basile to be the new coach of the Argentina National Football Team.

The award-winning Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica is creating a documentary about Maradona's life, entitled Maradona. The film is currently in post-production, and its release is anticipated in 2006. Italian-Australian actor Marco Leonardi has been confirmed to play the prolific footballer in the film.

In September 2006, Maradona, in his famous blue and white number 10, was the captain for Argentina in a 3-day World Cup of Indoor Football tournament in Spain. Against Spain, Maradona set up the first goal for Argentina with a lob over the top of the defense for his teammate to head it home.

Personal agents

Jorge Cyterszpiller, a childhood friend, was Maradona's first agent. He set up Maradona Producciones but did not score any major successes with merchandising, as counterfeiters would quickly imitate any product that came on the market. On his advice, Maradona started charging for interviews, a move that generated some controversy.

After breaking up with Cyterszpiller, Maradona hooked up with Guillermo Coppola, a bank employee who had started representing players as a hobby and was already a major agent in the mid-1980s. Coppola oversaw the biggest contracts of Maradona's career, but also was involved in the drug scandals of the early 1990s. Maradona and Coppola parted ways acrimoniously, and they still refer to the end of their relations as an "open wound".

Personal life

Maradona married long-time fiancée Claudia Villafañe on November 7, 1989 in Buenos Aires, after the birth of their daughters, Dalma Nerea (b. 1987) and Giannina Dinorah (b. 1989). In his autobiography, Maradona admits he was not always faithful to Claudia, even though he refers to her as the love of his life.

Maradona and Villafañe divorced in 2004. Daughter Dalma has since asserted that the divorce was the best solution for all, as her parents remained on friendly terms. They traveled together to Napoli for a series of homages in June 2005 and were seen together on many other occasions, including the Argentina matches during 2006 FIFA World Cup.

During the divorce proceedings, Maradona admitted he was the father of Diego Sinagra (b. Naples, 1986), as was claimed by the youth's mother Cristiana Sinagra. (The Italian courts had so ruled in 1993, after Maradona refused to undergo DNA tests for proving or disproving his paternity.) Diego Jr. met Maradona for the first time in May 2003 after tricking his way onto a golf course in Naples where Maradona was playing.

After the divorce, Claudia embarked on a career as a theatre producer, and Dalma is seeking an acting career; she has expressed her desire to attend the Actor's Studio in Los Angeles.

Drug abuse and health situation

Maradona has had a series of health problems since retirement. Since the 1990s, Maradona has been battling a cocaine addiction, which included spells in Swiss and Cuban detox clinics. Between 2002 and 2005, Maradona spent most of his time in Cuba.

On April 18, 2004, doctors reported that Maradona had suffered a major heart attack following a cocaine overdose; he was admitted to intensive care in a Buenos Aires hospital. Scores of fans gathered around the clinic. Days after the heart attack, a nurse was caught taking photos of Maradona with a mobile phone and was promptly fired by the hospital managers.

After he showed improvement, Maradona was taken off the respirator on April 23 and remained in intensive care for several days before being discharged on April 29. He returned to Cuba in May.

Maradona has always had a tendency to put on weight, and suffered increasingly with obesity from the end of his playing career until undergoing gastric bypass surgery in a clinic in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia on March 6, 2005. When Maradona resumed public appearances shortly thereafter, he displayed a notably thinner figure.

Political views

Maradona with the Argentinian president Néstor Kirchner
Maradona with the Argentinian president Néstor Kirchner

During the nineties, Diego Maradona supported the presidency of neoliberal Carlos Menem in Argentina. In more recent years, Maradona has shown more sympathy to left-wing ideologies. He became friends with Fidel Castro while in treatment in Cuba. He has a portrait of Castro tattooed on his left leg and one of Ernesto Che Guevara on his right arm. He has declared his opposition to imperialism, notably during the 2005 Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina. There he protested George W. Bush's presence in Argentina, wearing a Stop Bush T-shirt and referring to Bush as "human garbage".


Ever since 1986, it is common for Argentines abroad to hear Maradona's name as a token of recognition, even in remote places. In Argentina, Maradona is often talked about in terms reserved for legends. In the Argentine film El Hijo de la Novia ("The bride's son"), an actor who plays a fake Catholic priest says to a bar patron: "they idolized him and then crucified him". When scolded by a friend for taking the prank too far, the fake priest retorts: "But I was talking about Maradona".

In Buenos Aires, fans organized the " Church of Maradona." Maradona's 43rd birthday in 2003 marked the start of the Year 43 D.D. - "Después de Diego" or After Diego - for its founding 200 members. Tens of thousands more have become members via the church's official web site.

Hounded for years by the press, Maradona even fired a compressed-air rifle against reporters who, so he claimed, invaded his privacy. This quote from former teammate Jorge Valdano summarizes the feelings of many:

Diego Maradona
He is someone many people want to emulate, a controversial figure, loved, hated, who stirs great upheaval, especially in Argentina... Stressing his personal life is a mistake. Maradona has no peers inside the pitch, but he has turned his life into a show, and is now living a personal ordeal that should not be imitated.
Diego Maradona

Maradona still generates controversy in England. In 1988, he played in an invitational game at London's Wembley Stadium celebrating the centenary of the English Football League. Maradona was part of the 'Rest of the World XI' playing against the English League XI. Each time that Maradona touched the ball he was subject to angry chants and boos from the crowd. It was reported that he received threats while in England.

A columnist for the sports daily Olé welcomed Maradona's hosting a TV show in 2005, noting that "for the first time, he seems to have found his place in the world outside the football pitch".

A television commercial for Brazilian soft drink Guaraná Antarctica portrayed Maradona as a member of the Brazilian national football team, including wearing the yellow jersey and singing the Brazilian national anthem with Brazilian caps Kaká and Ronaldo. He wakes up crying that it was a nightmare.

In May 2006, Maradona agreed to take part in UK's Soccer Aid (a program to raise money for Unicef). Maradona showed his skill with the ball and even scored a penalty.

Career statistics


  • His overall average of goals scored per match in domestic club competitions is 0.53.


  • 34 goals in 91 appearances for Argentina (1977-1994)
  • Started in 21 consecutive matches for Argentina in four World Cups (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994)
  • Appeared a World Cup-record 16 times as captain of the national team.
  • Scored 8 goals and made 8 assists in 21 World Cup appearances, including 5 goals and 5 assists in 1986
  • Tied for second-highest goal-scorer from Argentina in World Cup finals (equaled Guillermo Stabile's mark in 1994; surpassed by Gabriel Batistuta in 1998)


Club honours

  • 1981 Argentine league (Boca Juniors)
  • 1983 Copa del Rey (FC Barcelona)
  • 1987 Italian league (SSC Napoli)
  • 1987 Italian Cup (SSC Napoli)
  • 1988 Italian top-scorer (SSC Napoli)
  • 1989 UEFA Cup (SSC Napoli)
  • 1990 Italian league (SSC Napoli)
  • 1991 Italian Super Cup (SSC Napoli)

International honours

  • 1979 FIFA World Youth Championship: Winner
  • 1986 FIFA World Cup: Winner
  • 1990 FIFA World Cup: Runner-up
  • 1993 Artemio Franchi Trophy: Winner

Individual honours

  • 1979–1981, 1986 Argentine Football Writers' Footballer of the Year
  • 1979, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1992 South American Footballer of the Year (El Mundo, Caracas)
  • 1986 Argentine Sports Writers' Sportsman of the Year
  • 1986 Golden Ball for Best Player of the FIFA World Cup
  • 1986–1987 Best Footballer in the World (Once)
  • 1986 World Player of the Year (World Soccer Magazine)
  • 1996 Golden Ball for services to football (France Football)
  • 1999 Argentine Sports Writers' Sportsman of the Century
  • 2000 "FIFA best football player of the century", people's choice.
  • 2002 "FIFA Goal of the Century" (1986 (2–1) v. England; second goal)
  • 2005 Argentine Senate "Domingo Faustino Sarmiento" recognition for lifetime achievement.

Coaching career

  • 1994 Mandiyú de Corrientes
  • 1995 Racing Club de Avellaneda

Preceded by:
Mario Kempes
South American Footballer of the Year
1979, 1980
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Michel Platini
Player of the Year
Succeeded by:
Ruud Gullit
Preceded by:
Paolo Rossi
FIFA World Cup Golden Ball
Succeeded by:
Salvatore Schillaci
Preceded by:
Dino Zoff
FIFA World Cup
winning captain

Succeeded by:
Lothar Matthäus
(West Germany)
Preceded by:
Preben Elkjær
FIFA World Cup Bronze Ball
Succeeded by:
Hristo Stoichkov


  • His maternal great-grandfather Mateo Kariolić was born in Korčula, Dalmatia, today's Croatia (possibly then in the Austrian Empire), and emigrated to Argentina, where Maradona's grandmother Salvadora was born. Salvadora named her daughter Dalma after the Croatian region, after whom Maradona named his eldest daughter.
  • Argentine singer Rodrigo Bueno wrote La mano de Dios ("The Hand of God"), dedicated to Diego Maradona. Maradona mentioned Rodrigo in his autobiography, and covered the song himself in this 2005 TV show (changing the lyrics from third person to first).
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