Diego Armando Maradona, the Argentine athlete who became known as El Pibe, passed away on November 25, the victim of a cardiopulmonary arrest, at the age of 60. He is considered one of the greatest players in the history of football, with unparalleled talent and an unrepeatable path when taking into account how football is played today.
The Argentine idol scored 345 goals in 680 games, serving six clubs and his national team. Naples, in Italy, was the place where he won the most trophies and where he absolutely prevailed in European football.
The birth of a deity
Diego was the son of an unspecialized worker and lived an impoverished childhood in a suburb of Buenos Aires, where he started playing football in the streets, standing out from an early age. Before the age of 10, he already knew what his dream was and what his destiny would be.
The beginning of his football career happened at just 9 years old when he was called to a local club, Los Cebollitas. In 1976, at the age of 15, he began his professional career with the small Argentine club Juniors. Maradona transformed this modest club in Buenos Aires, immediately putting it in contention with major national football teams. In less than a year, the player's rare talent made him join Argentina's national team. Maradona was the youngest player in history to wear his country's national team jersey. In 1979, he won the U21 World Cup. In 1981, he migrated to Boca Juniors and won his first national title there.
The international career
From then on, Maradona went on to an international career. In June 1982, Maradona signed a contract with Barcelona, in what was the most expensive club transfer in history at that time.
Two years later he moved to Naples, where he would win the admiration of Italy and the whole of Europe. In that city, Maradona became an idol for having helped lead the small club to win the Scudetto and the Italian Cup. In 1989, his fame was consecrated when he got his first European conquest.
Towards the end of his career, Maradona would return to Spain, this time to wear the Sevilla jersey. He would return to his favourite club, Boca, in the 90s.
It was during the 1986 World Cup that Maradona starred in the most emblematic episode of his career. Diego scores a goal with his hand - validated by the referee -, in a move that became known as the "hand of God".
With the Argentine national team, as a player, Maradona played four World Championships (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994). He ended his career as a player at the age of 37.
As a coach, Maradona didn't win any trophies. He had some adventures in the United Arab Emirates, in the Mexican Second Division and, more recently, at the service of Gimnasia y Esgrima, in Argentina.
In 2008 Maradona returned to his national team as a coach. He coached Argentina in the qualifying phase for the World Cup in South Africa. The team ended up going to the World Cup but was eliminated in the quarter-finals. That was the end of Maradona career in high-level football, having left the national coach position in 2010.
A beloved and controversial personality who broke free from the laws of death
Diego Armando Maradona was absolutely brilliant as an athlete, revealing an intelligence and brilliance unprecedented in the pitch. On the other hand, this player extraordinaire consumed drugs, tested positive for doping and was involved in many controversies in regards to his personal life. All of this made Maradona a bigger-than-life character, an unavoidable and unrepeatable figure in the history of football.
Critics and experts of the sport are unanimous in the idea that Maradona was the best player in the world in his time, and that, given the demands of football as it is practised today, a story like his would be practically impossible to repeat.
With all the setbacks he has known in his life, Maradona will go down in the history of football and sports in general as the most human of gods. He was the one who said: "If I used drugs… imagine the player I would have been if I had never used them". For being a sports hero who gave fans so much joy, even though he was far from being an exemplary citizen and athlete, all was forgiven. Diego will remain an unforgettable figure in the history of football and forever in the hearts of fans on a global scale.