Diego Maradona was a player like the world had never seen. His skill on the ball, his ability to beat defenders one on one and all of the iconic moments and goals have put him firmly in the conversation as the best player ever. For many, he’s at the peak of that mountain. For others, it’s perhaps Pele or Lionel Messi or even Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s always a cause of debate. One thing is for certain when it comes to Maradona: He captivated the world, for all the right and wrong reasons, and he continues to do so now as he searches for stability as a manager.
Born in Lanus in the province of Buenos Aires, Maradona played for six clubs in his career of just over 20 years. He debuted with Argentinos Juniors (their home stadium is now named after him) while also playing for Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell’s Old Boys. He won nine trophies in his career, including the FIFA World Cup for Argentina.
Ahead of the release of the documentary titled “Diego Maradona” on HBO, here are five things to know about the man and legend of the game.
1. He scored the most controversial goal of all time …
Maradona was arguably at the prime of his career in the mid-80s and that was on evident to everyone during Argentina’s 1986 World Cup campaign. He set the world on fire in Mexico during the tournament, but as usual, there was controversy surrounding it. Taking on England in the quarterfinals at Estadio Azteca in Mexico, Maradona scored what is now famously known as the “Hand of God” goal.
It wasn’t the only notable Maradona goal scored in that game …
2. … and the greatest goal all time in the same game
This one was commonly dubbed as the “goal of the century” and widely considered the greatest goal of all time. And it all came in that same “Hand of God” game. Maradona, who was 25 at the time, went he length of the field and left most of the English team in the dust to produce a magical and unforgettable moment.
3. He led Argentina to 1986 World Cup title (amid controversy)
As we mentioned above, Maradona was on fire in the summer of 1986, as he led Argentina to World Cup glory, beating West Germany in the final. Maradona won the Golden Ball Award for the best player of the tournament, finishing his campaign with five goals, just one behind Gary Lineker’s six. This was Argentina’s second and most recent World Cup title. The soccer-rich country has gone 33-plus years without capturing another World Cup title — even with a player the magnitude of Lionel Messi on the roster.
4. He was kicked out of the 1994 World Cup for doping
Maradona’s 1994 World Cup couldn’t have gone worse. His group-stage goal against Greece and his celebration, for many — a chilling look at the camera with his bulging eyes — is the lasting image of his iconic career because of what followed. Maradona was kicked out of the World Cup for failing a doping test and never represented his country as a player again.
5. He’s had a pretty mediocre coaching career
Maradona was considerably better as a player than coach. He took charge of the Argentina national team and managed the team during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. His biggest club job was Racing Club in his native Argentina. He also coached in United Arab Emirates and Mexico. In September, Maradona returned to coaching to lead Gimansia y Esgrima de la Plata of the Argentine first division. He hasn’t won a title as a manager, but he has provided three memorable moments as a tactician:
1. The slide against Peru: Three straight losses toward the end of World Cup qualifying saw Argentina in real danger of failing to qualify. Competing for the final direct spot with Uruguay, Ecuador and Colombia, Argentina was on its way to victory against Peru in Round 17 after Gonzalo Higuain’s opener. But a goal in the 89th minute from Peru put Argentina in jeopardy of a draw, which would have put the team in jeopardy of qualifying. In the 92nd minute, Martin Palermo came up with a miracle goal at El Monumental under torrential rain that gave Argentina new life. It also resulted in Maradona going all Slip ‘N Slide on the pitch.
2. Outburst in Uruguay: After barely getting Argentina into the 2010 World Cup, Maradona lost it in a post-match press conference. It came on the final matchday with an 84th minute goal from Mario Bolatti clinching a 1-0 win over Uruguay to qualify for the World Cup. Maradona was upset with how he claims journalists were treating him and insulted them with words we cannot repeat here (for a transcript of his profanity-laden outburst, click here). Here’s what we can share:
“This is for all Argentineans except for the journalists. I would like to thank the team for giving me the privilege to lead Argentina to the World Cup. Thank you to the Argentinean people who had faith.
“This is for those who did not believe in the team and treated me like dirt – but we still qualified with honor. They will now have to accept this. I want to thank the players and the fans – no one but them.”
3. World Cup debacle: Argentina entered the 2010 World Cup with high expectations as a young Lionel Messi led the way, but Argentina lost 4-1 to Germany in the quarterfinals to crash out of the competition, ending Maradona’s run as manager.