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Diego Maradona: How our celebration of the legend's bizarre life became an unintended eulogy

Diego Maradona
(Image credit: PA)

Arguments over who is the best footballer ever are futile. It is impossible to compare players who played in different eras. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have staked their claim for this current time. Pele was the best player of the 1960s and 1970s, but when it came to the '80s there was only one name: Diego Maradona.

There will be plenty of pieces written about Maradona following his death this week at the age of 60, and that is quite simply because he was box office. As a player, as a manager and as a person he was colourful, charismatic and at times crazy. Love him or loathe him, one thing you couldn’t do was ignore him.

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And that is one of the reasons we decided to dedicate 11 pages to him to in the current issue of FourFourTwo to celebrate his 60th birthday in October. Putting together a feature on someone who has lived more than 40 years in the global spotlight can be problematic as it is hard to come up with something new.

It was early September when we decided to put a feature together and we wanted to tell the stories that people didn’t know.

So we broke his life and career down into seven sections - his early life in Argentina, his time at Barcelona, that 1986 World Cup triumph, his time at Napoli, the end of his playing career and his drug years and then into his time as a manager both of his home country at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and latterly in his homeland.

We told the story of how as a 20-year-old he took revenge on a goalkeeper who called him chubby by putting four goals past him. And then how he trashed the trophy room at Barcelona when the club refused to give him his passport so he could go to West Germany to play in a testimonial.

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The World Cup in Mexico in 1986 was his crowning achievement in international football, but it nearly didn’t happen after he was kicked really hard in the knee by a Venezuela fan at the airport ahead of a qualifier the year before.

In Italy, he became the adopted son of Naples, but in 1987 Silvio Berlusconi tried to tempt him to AC Milan with the promise of a fast car, a luxury apartment and double his money - Diego stayed loyal.

Diego Maradona

(Image credit: PA Images)

Elsewhere in the feature, we told the stories of his failed drugs tests, falling out with managers and becoming a manager himself. Right up to the point when in charge of struggling Gimnasia in Argentia. While he did manage to get a few results, relegation from the top flight looked all but certain.

But when the coronavirus pandemic hit the FA cancelled relegation and Maradona and Gimnasia were saved.

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The feature was put together as a celebration of Maradona’s life as he turned 60. After we went to press the news broke that he had been admitted to hospital where he spent eight days having a blood clot removed from his brain. But he was discharged and the football world was able to breathe again.

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And while the untold stories were put together to celebrate his 60th birthday, hopefully now they can act as a tribute to a colourful, crazy and entertaining life.

Rest in peace, Diego. The football world will miss you.

While you're here, why not subscribe to FourFourTwo? In the Black Friday sale, it's half-price – less than £3 an issue

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