Diego Armando Maradona was born on October 30, 1960 at the Evita Hospital in Lanús. He is the son of Diego Maradona (1928-2015), from Corrientes, and Dalma Salvadora Franco (1930-2011), descendant of Italians. He was the fifth of eight children. He had five sisters: María Rosa, Rita, Elsa, Ana María and Claudia; and two brothers: Raúl and Hugo (nicknamed Lalo and Turco), also soccer players.
He was the father of five children. In 2009 he became a grandfather for the first time. He died on November 25 2020, just a few days after his 60th birthday.
His beginnings in football
Maradona began playing soccer for his father’s amateur team, Estrella Roja. The other team in the neighborhood was Tres Banderas, of his best friend Goyo Carrizo. He took Diego to try out at the under 10 team of Argentinos Juniors, in Buenos Aires. Thus, he entered Los Cebollitas, the club’s children’s division, at the age of 9. His first coach was Francisco Cornejo, who at first could not believe his ability at such a young age. He even asked for his identity document to corroborate his date of birth. With him and Carrizo on the team, Los Cebollitas went on a win streak of 136 matches.
Maradona began his professional career with Argentinos Juniors on October 20, 1976, debuting in jersey number 16 in a match against Talleres de Córdoba, ten days before his sixteenth birthday. Becoming, at that time, the youngest player to debut in the Argentine First Division league. Shortly before making his debut, the then coach of Argentinos Juniors, Juan Carlos Montes, told Maradona: “Go Diego, play as you know how. And if possible, do a nutmeg”. In response, Diego did a nutmeg to the first player who crossed him, Juan Domingo Cabrera. Argentinos lost that match 0-1. However, Maradona soon became the undisputed starter. His first goals in Argentinos Jrs. were scored on November 14 of that year, with a double goal to San Lorenzo de Mar del Plata.
Youth World Cup (1979)
At the age of 18, Diego Maradona was the standard bearer of the new generation of Argentine football. His ability and personality allowed him to stand out among already established players. So much so, that he was about to play in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. But after being left out of the squad list, he had his revenge in the 1979 Youth World Cup in Japan. There, the Argentine team led by Maradona won the U-20 (Under 20) World Cup, and Diego established himself as the Best Player of the tournament, receiving the FIFA Golden Ball.
His consecration in Argentine football (1978-1982)
Already in 1978, Maradona had become the top scorer in the Argentine league with 22 goals. And in 1979 and 1980 he was the top scorer in the Metropolitano and Nacional championships, consecutively winning the Golden Boot in 1978, 1979 and 1980, and the Golden Ball for Best American Player in 1979 and 1980. With Argentinos Jrs. he got second place in the Metropolitano championship, and surpassed with only 19 years the mark of the 100 goals in Argentine soccer.
In 1981 he was loaned out to Boca Juniors, one of the most popular teams in Argentina. And there he won a local championship for the first time, the Metropolitano of that year, captaining the team and scoring unforgettable goals.
Although his transfer to Barcelona had been frustrated on several occasions, since the Argentine government and the AFA prevented the sale of Argentine players before the World Cup in Spain, Maradona’s time in Argentina was coming to an end.
His arrival in Europe, the World Cup in Spain and Barcelona (1982-1984)
On June 5, 1982, days before the start of the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Maradona finally became a Barcelona player.Many speak of failure and disappointment, but it should be noted that Maradona was unable to complete any of the two seasons he played in Spain, due to health problems and injuries caused by criminal marking.
In his first season at the club, he suffered from viral hepatitis that took him away from football for more than three months. Barça achieved fourth place in the Liga Española, instead, it won the Copa del Rey, defeating Real Madrid on June 4, 1983, and then the Copa de la Liga, also against Real Madrid, with goals from Maradona in both first and second leg matches.
The following season 1983-84, with César Luis Menotti as coach, started a little better. In August they won the Copa Gamper. In September, in the first match of the European Winners’ Cup against Germany’s Magdeburg, Maradona scored a hat-trick, and the match ended 5-1. But on the fourth date of the championship, in the match against Athletic Bilbao, with the match 4-0 in favor of Barcelona, Maradona was seriously injured by defender Andoni Goikoechea, suffering a fracture in his left ankle. During his recovery, at the end of 1983, Barcelona also won the Super Copa Española, in the double final against Athletic Bilbao.
In early 1984, after his return to football, Maradona led Barcelona to six consecutive victories. In March, the European Winners’ Cup resumed. Barcelona won the first leg against Manchester United 2-0. But the 0-3 against the English, in the rematch, eliminated them from the competition.
Barcelona finished that Liga in third place, just one point behind the champion. Maradona played 23 of the 53 official matches, in which he scored 11 goals. In May he played in the final of the Copa del Rey against Athletic Bilbao. But after the 0-1 loss, Maradona responded to the attacks of the Basque players, and a fight broke out between the two teams. This marked the end of Diego in the Catalonian club
After a very complex negotiation, Maradona was hired by the Napoli club in Italy.
His beginnings with Napoli (1984-1986)
On July 5, 1984, Maradona entered a packed San Paolo for his presentation as a Napoli player. That evening he was received by eighty thousand “tifosi”. In the first season 1984-85, Napoli finished in eighth place, avoiding the feared relegation. The team had started at the bottom of the table.
In the 1985-86 season, Napoli obtained third place, leaving the victory against Juventus in the memory of everyone, after thirty-two years, with a goal by Maradona from a free kick.
World Champion in Mexico 1986
In Mexico, led by Carlos Salvador Bilardo, the Argentine team captained by Diego Maradona won the World Cup, beating Germany 3-2.
Two of his five goals in that championship remained in history, converted to none other than England, just four years after the Malvinas Islands war. One of them scored with his hand, known as The Hand of God. And the other is considered by football lovers as the Best Goal in World Cup History, known as “The Goal of the Century”.
Maradona’s performance in that world cup was extraordinary, overshadowing great international figures and becoming the architect of the Argentine triumph. Diego won the FIFA Golden Ball, and is considered by many to be the Best Player in the History of Football.
His victories with Napoli (1986-1991)
In the 1986-87 season, under the direction of coach Ottavio Bianchi, Napoli won its first Scudetto. On May 10, 1987, the Neapolitan club drew 1-1 with Fiorentina at the San Paolo stadium, winning the first championship in its history. In addition, Napoli won its third Copa Italia. That double victory (Scudetto and Copa Italia) was a feat that only clubs Torino and Juventus had achieved until then.
In the 1987-88 season, Napoli participated in the Champions Cup for the first time, but was eliminated after a double confrontation with Real Madrid. In the Serie A, Napoli was in first place, and held a five-point lead until match day 20, when they were overtaken by Milan, and lost the championship. Maradona was the top scorer in that tournament with 15 goals.
In the 1988-89 season, Napoli finished the League in second place. But the team entered history after achieving its first international trophy, winning the UEFA Cup against Stuttgart in Germany. In addition, in that season he reached the final of the Copa Italia.
In the 1989-90 season, after a difficult start, Maradona’s Napoli won a second Scudetto, after a close points difference with Milan until the last match.
After the 1990 World Cup in Italy, where the Argentine team reached the finals again, after beating Brazil and Italy, and losing the finals against Germany due to a controversial penalty, Maradona’s Italian experience would come to an end.
Despite lifting the Italian Super Cup, after comfortably beating Juventus, in the 1990-91 season, more precisely on March 17, 1991, Diego was suspended for 15 months after a positive anti-doping test in the match against Bari (1-0). Maradona left Italy, and Napoli closed that season in seventh place.
Sevilla, his return to Boca Jrs. and retirement (1992-1997)
After a year and a half of disqualification, in 1992 Maradona’s career continued in Spain.
In Sevilla he met again with the coach Carlos Bilardo. There he played his first official match of La Liga against Athletic Bilbao. He also returned to play in the Argentine national team. With it he won the Artemio Franchi Cup in 1993, beating the European champion, Denmark.
But Sevilla did not achieve their goal: to qualify for the UEFA Cup. In 25 games Maradona scored 5 goals and was the author of 12 assists. After one season, his Sevillian experience came to an end.
That year he returned to play in his home country, with Newell’s Old Boys. Later, on October 31, 1993, he returned to play for the national team. It was in Sydney, against Australia, in the first leg of the qualifying play-off for the USA 1994 World Cup. The match ended 1-1 and the goal by Argentine Abel Balbo was thanks to a cross from Maradona. In the second leg, on November 17, in Buenos Aires, Argentina won 1-0, thus qualifying for the World Cup in the United States.
After 5 games, after facing Huracán, on February 12, 1994, Maradona terminated his contract with Newell’s. And he withdrew from competitions for a few months, waiting for the World Cup in USA ’94. He returned to play for the national team on April 20, 1994.
In the World Cup he played only two games, scoring one goal against Greece. But a positive doping test for ephedrine disabled him for another 15 months. During that time, Maradona tried to work as a coach in two short periods, leading Deportivo Mandiyú de Corrientes (from October 3 to December 30, 1994), and Racing Club (from January 6 to March 26, 1995), though unsuccessfully. In the first case, the resignation was due to a dispute with the club’s leadership. In the second case, Maradona left the technical direction when the then president of Racing lost the elections.
In 1995 he was awarded by France Football magazine with the Ballon d’Or for his career. In those days, only European players received this award.
On October 7 of the same year, he played again with the Boca Juniors shirt, in the match against Colón de Santa Fe (1-0). He remained in Boca Juniors for two years, before retiring from professional soccer in the superclasico against River Plate, played on October 25, 1997.
2009: Maradona on the bench of the National Team
After some brief experiences in the mid-nineties, on October 28, 2008, Maradona was appointed coach of the Argentine national team, replacing Alfio Basile. Under his guidance, the Albiceleste qualified for the World Cup in South Africa in the last round, beating Uruguay 1-0 as a visitor. In South Africa, after a strong and encouraging start, thanks to four consecutive victories, Argentina lost 0-4 against Germany in the quarterfinals, and his contract as coach was not renewed. Maradona directed 25 games, won 18 and lost 7, without draws, with an effectiveness of 72%. Numbers above other technicians.
United Arab Emirates
On May 14, 2011, after 10 months of inactivity, Maradona was hired by Al-Wasl in Dubai, signing a two-year contract.
He played a total of 44 games, with 20 wins and 6 draws.
In July 2012, after losing the GCC Champions League final on penalties, he stepped down.
On May 7, 2017, he was appointed coach of Al-Fujairah, from the second division. The Arab team, made up of amateur players, achieved very good results throughout the championship, arriving with chances of being promoted to the First Division directly. But, after achieving an incredible draw in the decisive match, and still having the possibility of being promoted by playing a playoff, on April 27, 2018, he resigned from his position. His team was the only one that did not lose games that season.
Dorados de Sinaloa and Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata
On September 7, 2018, Maradona was presented as the new coach of Dorados de Sinaloa, a team in the second division of Mexican soccer.
Despite his detractors, he carried out two high-level campaigns, contesting the final in both seasons. His good work was little recognized. Finally, Maradona had to resign on June 14, 2019 for health reasons, since he had to undergo a knee operation in Argentina.
On September 5, 2019 he was appointed coach of Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata. He led the team in the Argentine Super League (2019-20), won by Boca Juniors. He also managed Gimnasia in the Argentine Superliga (2020-21), but it was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Throughout those two seasons, Diego received innumerable and unforgettable tributes from Argentine soccer clubs and fans.