Maradona's best moments
Argentina have had a roller-coaster World Cup so far, and watching their every step from above – in the stands, not the sky – has been their most legendary old boy, Diego Maradona, who dragged the Albiceleste to glory in 1986 and a rather less celebrated final appearance in 1990.
In this slideshow, we pick out the nine best moments of El Diez’s illustrious playing career.
1. World Youth Championship, 1979
Considered too young for Cesar Luis Menotti’s 1978 World Cup squad despite having made his full international debut at 16 in 1977, Maradona duly went about terrorising poor saps his own age the following year in Japan.
Argentina won it, of course, thrashing Indonesia (5-0) and Poland (4-1) in the group stage (also edging out Yugoslavia 1-0), with Maradona helping himself to three of the goals. He bagged again in the knockouts against Algeria and Uruguay, before rounding off the scoring in the 3-1 defeat of the Soviet Union in the final and claiming the Golden Ball for being the tournament’s best player. Seems fair enough.
2. Argentinos Juniors 5-3 Boca Juniors, 1980
Maradona was only 15 when he made his Argentinos Juniors debut in October 1976, and stayed with his first club for five years before making his dream move to Boca in 1981. But not before he’d humiliated them.
Four months before signing, Maradona – fuelled by Boca goalkeeper Hugo Gatti’s pre-match comments about “the little fatty” – had welcomed them to the Campeonato Nacional with a four-goal floor-show. He netted a penalty (after his rabona hit a Bocas defender’s arm), a wonderful stabbed chip and two free-kicks. Boca had seen enough and promptly set about tempting him to La Bombonera.
3. Argentina 2-1 England, 1986 World Cup Quarter-Final
It’s quite a testament to the diminutive genius’s second goal in this World Cup quarter-final that it's only ever-so-slightly overshadowed his opener (y’know, that one he punched in for ever-lasting global infamy).
Jogging past a puffing Peter Reid proved unsurprisingly easy; more horrifying was the ease with which Maradona made a mockery of hard man Terry Butcher with a simple skip inside. With his next touch, beautifully delayed, he took out a hapless Terry Fenwick, and then rounded Peter Shilton before sliding the ball home. It remains the greatest goal the World Cup has ever seen.
4. Argentina 3-2 West Germany, 1986 World Cup Final
Having seen Maradona embarrass both England in the last eight and Belgium in the semi-finals, West Germany weren’t in any mood to be bossed around by him in the Mexico City showpiece. Franz Beckenbauer’s men did a decent job of keeping him quiet for most of the game, but El Diego needed just one moment to make his mark.
There was no obvious danger when, with the scores locked at 2-2, Maradona turned with a bouncing ball in the centre circle. But with impeccable vision and a swish of that left boot, he played in Jorge Burruchaga to hare away down the right and jab home an 83rd-minute winner.
5. Napoli scoop Serie A-Coppa Italia double, 1987
Fresh from world domination, Maradona duly set about bringing glory to Naples. Napoli had finished eighth and third in the Argentine’s first two seasons in Italy, and hadn’t made it past the last 16 of the Coppa Italia.
But then it all came good: Napoli didn’t lose any of their first 12 games of 1986/87 and won at both Juventus and Roma, the previous season’s champions and second-placed side respectively. Maradona – the only non-Italian in Napoli’s squad – got the solitary goal in Rome, one of 10 in a Serie A season that averaged only 1.93 goals per game (among the lowest in the league’s history). For the first time ever, Napoli were champions.
6. Napoli 3-0 Juventus, 1988/89 UEFA Cup Quarter-Final
Napoli went on to win the UEFA Cup in 1989, but did a rip-snorting job of even getting to the final. It certainly didn’t look very likely after they’d lost 2-0 in the first leg of their quarter-final against Italian rivals Juventus.
Good, then, that they hadn’t given up hope themselves. In front of a frothing Stadio San Paolo crowd, Maradona – in a fine personal display – slapped home a 10th-minute penalty to open the scoring and then watched team-mate Andrea Carnevale thump in a stonking second from the edge of the box on half-time. That’s how it remained until, deep into extra time, Alessandro Renica headed the dramatic winner that took Napoli through.
7. Napoli’s second Scudetto, 1990
Having tried but twice fallen short of reclaiming their title, Napoli went again with Milanese revenge on their mind. They’d finished second behind Milan in 1987/88 (Maradona top-scored Serie A with 15 goals) and then Inter in 1988/89, but didn’t fancy losing out again to the snooty Northerners..
As such, they didn’t lose their first game until December 30, having conceded only 12 goals in their first 16 matches. Maradona was exceptional, scoring in half of those matches and laying on seven assists (the highlight a scintillating goal and two-assist display in a 3-0 win over Milan). He continued the second half of the season in similar form: 10 goals in Napoli’s last 15 games of the season (two of which he missed) helped fire them to the Scudetto.
8. Brazil 0-1 Argentina, 1990 World Cup Last 16
Even a half-fit Maradona was able to influence a World Cup game against Argentina’s arch-rivals, as the Albiceleste reached another final. Their fumblings in the group stage led to a knockout clash against group winners Brazil, who’d won all of their games and conceded only once.
On form the Selecao should have continued their streak, but in a scruffy game it was Argentina’s 30-year-old skipper who cracked the game open with a trademark dribble from inside his own half. Three Brazilians were beaten by the run and by the end four had been sucked towards him, opening up space for Maradona’s pass to Claudio Caniggia, who coolly rounded Claudio Taffarel and finished.
9. Argentina 4-0 Greece, 1994 World Cup group
Maradona was sent home in disgrace from the United States in what was a truly awful tournament for Argentina. They beat Greece and Nigeria to make it through the group, but went out to Romania in the second round. The 2-1 win over the Nigerians was Maradona’s last game for his country – powdered up to the eyeballs and 34, it was an ungraceful way to end a magical international career.
But he didn’t leave without making an indelible mark on the tournament. Argentina demolished Greece 4-0 in their opening game, with Gabriel Batistuta plundering a hat-trick, but the only thing anyone really remembers is Maradona sealing an exceptional one-touch team move – and the primal howl of a celebration he subsequently rammed down the camera's throat.
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