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Maradona

Argentina

Full name: Diego Armando Maradona
Date of birth: 30/10/1960
Position: Midfielder
International caps: 91
International goals: 34
World Cups: 1982 - Second Round
1986 - Champions
1990 - Runners-up
1994 - Second Round
World Footballer of the Year: 1986
South American Footballer of the Year: 1979, 1980
Clubs: Argentinos Juniors
Boca Juniors
Barcelona
Napoli
Sevilla
Newells Old Boys
Boca Juniors
1976-1981
1981-1982
1982-1984
1984-1991
1992-1993
1993
1995-1997

Diego Maradona was arguably the greatest player of his generation, and if it hadn't been for his much documented excesses, may have become the greatest player ever. A short but stocky, powerful player, Maradona played either centre forward or just tucked behind the front line in an attacking midfield role. He has been said to be "like Pele, but angrier".

He gained his first international cap at the age of 16, in 1977, becoming Argentina's youngest ever international. However, Menotti, the Argentinian coach, thought Maradona was two young and vulnerable to play in the 1978 World Cup (and nobody challenged the decision after Argentina's success) and he had to wait until 1982 to make an appearance on the senior world stage - although he did captain the World Youth Cup winners in 1979. Just before the tournament in 1982, he transferred to Spanish giants Barcelona for a world record £5million. In his first season, he helped his club win the league, league cup and the Super Cup.

Maradona takes on Belgium

The reigning champions stuttered in their first group game of the 1982 World Cup in Spain, losing to Belgium 1-0, although Maradona hit the bar with a free kick. In the second game, Maradona won the match on his own, with a glorious individual display of muscularly brilliant skill - scoring two goals in the 4-1 win over Hungary. With an uneasy win over El Salvador in their third game, Argentina qualified for the second round group stage, but were drawn against Italy and Brazil. Throughout the match against Italy, Maradona was bumped and pushed off the ball by the ironically named defender Gentile and didn't get into the game - Argentina lost 2-1. They were then beaten 3-1 by Brazil and the defending champions were unceremoniously dumped out of the World Cup, after Maradona was sent off in the 87th minute.

In 1984, Maradona moved to the success-starved Napoli for another world record fee of £6.9million. This was to start the Italian club's most successful period to date, winning their only Italian Championship titles in 1987 and 1990, a Coppa Italia (1987), the 1989 UEFA Cup and an Italian Supercup (1990). Napoli were also runners-up in Serie A in 1988 and 1989.

Maradona lifts the World Cup

By the time of the World Cup in 1986, Maradona was at his peak. Now captain of his country, he always looked the best player on the pitch, even though he was carrying a long standing injury. Argentina's first opponents, Korea, had obviously heard about his injury - the South American's first two goals in a 3-1 win coming from free kicks awarded after Maradona was kicked over. In the second game, Italy almost succeeded in keeping Maradona out of the game by man-marking him, although a lapse in the 33rd minute allowed him to sneak in and score a volley to secure a 1-1 draw. In the second round, Maradona yet again dominated the game - the Uruguayans not being able to tackle him as they wished, having received a fine and warning over their play in the group stage. Then came the infamous quarter final tie against England, during which Maradona showed both sides to his play. Firstly, he went up for a high ball with England goalkeeper, Shilton, and palmed it over the top of the onrushing player. For the referee and most of the crowd, it happened too quickly and may have been a header, but video replays later showed it to be a hand ball, or "Hand-of-God" as Maradona himself called it. This moment often overshadows his other goal (netted only minutes later), when Maradona challenged for the ball near the half way line, beat four players and then dummied Shilton to score one of the great goals of the World Cup. (See the goal via my YouTube links page). A late Lineker goal could do nothing to stop Argentina progress. In the semi final, it was another one-man show, Maradona scoring both goals in a masterful 2-0 victory. In the final, Maradona was marked out of the game once again, this time by West Germany's Matthaus. After an eventful second half, the Germans made it 2-2 with eight minutes to go. Then in the 85th minute, Maradona escaped his man and set up the winning goal. The frustrations of four years before had been forgotten with a dominating display throughout the tournament... and his left hand.

Maradona and the 'Hand-of-God'

Leading up to the 1990 World Cup, Argentina had won only one of their last 10 matches. Also, an inflamed toenail meant that Maradona was playing in intense pain, and it wasn't as much of a surprise as it should have been when they were beaten in the first game by Cameroon. In the second, another Maradona hand-ball (this time blatantly palming away a flick on while defending) helped Argentina to beat USSR 2-0. They then went on to win their next two game, before scraping through against Yugoslavia on penalties in the quarter final - even though Maradona missed his! Italy weren't so lucky when the semi final match with the South Americans went to another penalty shoot out. Maradona scored this time and Argentina were into another final. However, West Germany had learnt their lesson from four years before, making sure Maradona was man marked by Buchwald all the way through. The Germans won 1-0 (making Argentina the first team to fail to score in a World Cup final).

In 1992 Maradona left Napoli following a 15 month ban for failing a drug test for cocaine. He subsequently played for a number of clubs in Spain and Argentina, with little success.

A 33 year old Maradona was called up to help Argentina squeeze through the qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup tournament, including the playoff game against Australia. The World Cup proper started well, Maradona scoring a goal in a 4-0 victory over Greece and then setting up both goals against a promising Nigerian team. However, after failing a random drugs test after the Nigeria game, Maradona was thrown out of the tournament in disgrace. Without their captain, Argentina struggled, losing to Bulgaria and Romania before going home.

Recently, Maradona has struggled with weight problems and his fight against drug addiction, but has appearerd as a successful TV show host in Argentina.

Maradona remains one of the most brilliant, but controversial, footballers ever. He played in 21 World Cup matches (a joint record at the time - later beaten by Germany's Matthaus), 16 of them as captain.