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Diego Maradona: Reminiscing greatness

El Diego would have turned 61 today
El Diego would have turned 61 today
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Vikram Bhattacharya

Diego Maradona. We've all heard the name. To most of the world, Maradona is an emblem of art. While the world has mourned the Argentine great's passing for over 11 months now, it seems unlikely that his memory will ever fade.

His personal idiosyncrasies aside, Diego Maradona is arguably the best football player in history. With most other players in contention for the accolade, there always seems to be a catch. Maradona doesn't just tick all the boxes in this regard - he transcends them in ways only he can.

A homegrown product of Villa Fiorito, Diego Maradona did not have the easiest of childhoods. Much like his peers in the neighborhood, back-alley football was a necessary escape.

On this day in 1960, football received a true blessing.Diego Maradona was born. https://t.co/43C0aRk3EM

Maradona did have that rare, unique feature that inevitably worked in his favour: his utterly magical feet. Argentina was not - and still is not - an easy place to kick a ball around. South American football is historically notorious for its devil-may-care brand of defense and for an eight-year-old to power through a youth system with 116 goals in 166 appearances is no mean feat.

Maradona's ability with the ball at his feet was arguably the only constant in what was a storied career and life. With a legendary pre-match routine and a few magical teenage years at Boca Juniors under his belt, Argentina's boy wonder found himself on a flight to Barcelona at the age of 21.

Spain greeted the legend with its traditional footballing fervor and while he did enjoy his special moments in the Catalan capital, Maradona found himself cast into a shell. Regular diets and lifestyle routines had become the norm for footballers in the post-war era, and Diego Maradona was having none of it. The Golden Boy served moments both historic and rebellious in equal proportion, and the Blaugrana could not cope.

Diego Maradona - Napoli's cult hero

Diego Maradona playing for Napoli (Image courtesy - CNN.com)
Diego Maradona playing for Napoli (Image courtesy - CNN.com)

Diego Maradona was arguably the first footballer in history to truly eviscerate the boundaries between the sport and its deep-rooted connections to the real world. The Argentine became Naples' heart and soul in the 1980s and effectively dismantled a complex pattern of inferiority that had plagued the region for centuries.

Over a period of four legendary years at Napoli, Diego Maradona won the club its first two Scudettos and also managed to secure European success. Albiceleste's all-time great was not particularly revered for his silverware cabinet. However, the Neapolitans were quite happy to be in the presence of his utter genius.

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Transcendence was a common theme throughout Maradona's career, and Italian football was no exception. The 1980s saw the likes of AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan produce some of the greatest defenders of all time. Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Giuseppe Bergomi, Gaetano Scirea, Claudio Gentile - the list simply does not end. At some point during the decade, Maradona got the better of all of them.

"Maradona is a God to the people of Naples. Maradona changed history. In 80 years, we had always suffered, fighting against relegation, yet in seven seasons with him we won two leagues, a UEFA Cup, two Italian Cups." - Fabio Cannavaro

Maradona had a massive impact on southern Italy's footballing clout and single-handedly made Napoli a bonafide European giant before he left the club.

A national hero - Diego Maradona at the 1986 World Cup

Diego Maradona celebrates winning the World Cup with Argentina
Diego Maradona celebrates winning the World Cup with Argentina

The World Cup is the epitome of the beautiful game. For weeks at a time, once every four years, the world turns its eyes to a tournament that remains unique in its ability to captivate imaginations. Much of this aura can be attributed to the ethereal greats who have made the World Cup their own.

Diego Maradona would’ve been 61 today. Out of all the goals I’ve watched back of his in Serie A, I like this one vs Verona best https://t.co/xnjPXDfJwU

Maradona never had any qualms about his image in the footballing world - he wasn't always the good guy. With many of the greatest names in sport, there exists a specific point in their careers that captures the essence of their game. It seems apt that Diego Maradona decided to make the 1986 FIFA World Cup semi-final his holy grail.

Maradona was irrepressible against England on the day and had effectively taken his place as history's finest after four legendary minutes in the second half. The 'Hand of God' and the 'Goal of the Century' were events that changed the course of football - the former cemented Maradona's status as an otherworldly icon, and the latter made him the greatest football player to ever play the game.

Once every four years in the 1980s, ardent fans and dispassionate individuals alike would tune in to live the mythical legend that was Diego Maradona. Football players need to be truly special to unite a planet.

Many of us today have never watched Diego Maradona play and yet he remains a beacon of footballing brilliance. We derive a mere projection of the great artist from our predecessors, and that quite often proves compelling enough - such was the genius of the man. After all, Maradona has enough legend in him for us all.


Paul Merson has predicted Manchester United vs Liverpool and other PL GW3 fixtures! Click here

Edited by Aakanksh Sanketh
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