Ask any football fan to list the greatest playmakers of all time, and two names are certain to feature near the top: Glenn Hoddle and Diego Maradona.
While the latter is considered one of the greatest players of all time, Hoddle is has a shout at being the most naturally gifted Englishman – a player of rare balance, control and intelligence. Incredibly, Hoddle reveals how close he came to actually playing in the same team as the Argentine, at Napoli.
"Yeah, that was in 1982, just after the World Cup," Hoddle tells the Players Lounge section of FourFourTwo – order the latest issue here. "They paid for a holiday and I went there for ten days. I looked around the city and the stadium; it was a manic place – football mad."
Hoddle was a Tottenham player at the time, and widely regarded as one of the biggest talents in football. Maradona, meanwhile, had recently joined Barcelona from Boca Juniors. He would join the Italian club two years later, and would have found Hoddle there too had things worked out for the Englishman during his visit.
"I could have ended up going, but around that time the president got put in jail. That was the reason why it all kind of fell through. It all just got kiboshed. [Laughs] Nevertheless, I had a very nice holiday. If I had signed for them I could have played with Diego Maradona."
Despite landing "only" the South American, Napoli didn't do too badly at the end of the eighties, as El Diego carried the perennial underachievers to two Scudetto, one Coppa Italia and the 1989 UEFA Cup. Hoddle may regret not getting to dovetail with Maradona for a living, but he did get a chance to play alongside him years later.
"I still played one game with him later on, though, when he came down for Ossie Ardiles’ testimonial in 1986. I let him play in the number 10 shirt. It was fantastic to play with him."
Football is littered with "what if" stories, but fans will always be left wondering what a team featuring both Hoddle and Maradona would have been like.
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Ed McCambridge is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working for the magazine and website. Ed has been living in Berlin since 2015 and worked as a Bundesliga reporter before joining FFT. Formerly a season ticket holder at AFC Wimbledon, he's now most commonly spotted at local side Union Berlin.
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