Diego Maradona was an Argentine soccer legend widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. He was born on October 30, 1960 in a poor neighborhood just outside Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Maradona’s soccer career spanned over two decades, from his professional debut at age 15 to his retirement at 37. He was renowned for his incredible skill with the ball, his creative passing and dribbling abilities, and his cunning maneuvers on the field.
His small stature (5 feet 5 inches) and low center of gravity allowed him to maneuver past larger defenders with ease.
Some of Maradona’s major achievements and highlights include:
- Leading Argentina to World Cup victory in 1986, winning the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. His “Hand of God” goal against England in the quarterfinals is one of the most infamous moments in World Cup history.
- Winning numerous league titles and cups with clubs in Argentina, Italy, and Spain, most notably Napoli. He is revered as a legend by Napoli fans.
- Winning the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award along with Pelé. Maradona scored 345 career goals in 679 club and international appearances.
- His brilliant performance at the 1986 World Cup, widely considered the peak of his career. He captained and propelled Argentina to their second World Cup title.
- Outrageous dribbling skills and creativity that dumbfounded defenders. His famous “Goal of the Century” against England in 1986 is considered one of the greatest individual goals ever.
Off the field, Maradona lived a turbulent life filled with controversies related to drug abuse, health issues, and outspoken comments on various topics.
He struggled with cocaine addiction for decades, which impacted his health and career. However, his genius on the field made him a legendary figure in Argentina and around the world.
What was Maradona’s early life like?
Diego Maradona was born on October 30, 1960 in the outskirts of Buenos Aires to a poor family. He was the first son after four daughters. Maradona’s parents, Diego Sr. and Dalma, named him Diego Armando Maradona.
Maradona grew up in Villa Fiorito, a shantytown just south of Buenos Aires. His family struggled to make ends meet and lived in a tiny cottage with neither running water nor indoor plumbing. Young Maradona often had to skip school to work odd jobs to support his family.
Despite the family’s economic hardships, Maradona’s prodigious soccer skills were evident from an early age. At just eight years old, he was discovered by a talent scout while playing on the streets. The scout recruited him to join the youth team of Argentinos Juniors, a first-division club in Buenos Aires.
Thereafter Maradona focused intensely on soccer, practicing long hours on dusty neighborhood fields. His precocious talent allowed him to play with older boys and hone his abilities. By age 10, he had become the rising star of his neighborhood.
Maradona’s difficult upbringing in the shantytowns fueled his intense competitiveness and aggressiveness on the field later in his career. Soccer was his escape from poverty and chance to change his family’s future.
How did Maradona’s professional career begin?
Maradona signed his first professional soccer contract with Argentinos Juniors at age 15, ten days before his 16th birthday. He made his professional debut on October 20, 1976, less than a week after turning 16.
The talented teenager quickly became an integral part of the Argentinos Juniors squad and helped the club win their first-ever national championship in 1978. Maradona scored 22 goals in 25 games during the season.
His astonishing playmaking abilities as an attacking midfielder or second striker drew attention from clubs across Europe. After five years with Argentinos Juniors, Maradona transferred to Boca Juniors in 1981 for a then-record $4 million fee. He played only one season for Boca Juniors before transferring to Barcelona in 1982 for another record $7.6 million.
Maradona excelled during his two seasons at Barcelona, leading the Spanish league in scoring in 1983-84. However, frequent disagreements with team leadership led to his departure for Napoli in Italy’s Serie A.
The move to Napoli in 1984 marked a turning point in Maradona’s career. Though it was a less prestigious club, Maradona achieved his greatest triumphs and fame during his seven seasons in Naples. He led the club to their first-ever league titles in 1987 and 1990, bringing joy to the long-suffering fans.
What were the highlights of Maradona’s international career with Argentina?
The pinnacle of Maradona’s illustrious career was captaining and leading Argentina to victory in the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. It was Argentina’s second World Cup title, and Maradona cemented his legacy as one of soccer’s all-time greats with his dominant performance throughout the tournament.
Some major highlights included:
- The “Hand of God” goal – In the quarterfinal against England, Maradona scored one of the most controversial goals ever by using his hand to punch the ball past the goalkeeper. Argentina won the match 2-1.
- The “Goal of the Century” – Minutes after the Hand of God goal, Maradona dribbled 60 meters past five English players and scored what is considered one of the greatest individual goals of all time.
- Golden Ball award – Maradona led Argentina through the knockout rounds and defeated West Germany 3-2 in the final. He was named the best player of the 1986 World Cup.
- 1991 Copa America – Maradona captained Argentina to the South American championship title and was the top scorer of the tournament. This was his only senior international trophy outside of the 1986 World Cup.
- 1994 World Cup and drug ban – Maradona played in his last World Cup in 1994 but was sent home after testing positive for banned ephedrine. He received a 15-month ban and never played for Argentina again.
In total, Maradona scored 34 goals in 91 international appearances for Argentina between 1977 and 1994. He retired as Argentina’s all-time leading goalscorer, a record later broken by Lionel Messi.
What was Maradona’s playing style and impact on soccer?
Maradona had an uncanny ability to control, pass, and dribble with the ball that awed fans and terrified defenders.
His small 5’5″ frame, low center of gravity, and incredible agility allowed him to maneuver better than most players. He would seemingly slither between larger defenders with the ball glued to his foot.
Maradona was also a cunning strategist with excellent field vision. His precise passing skills enabled him to slice through defenses and create goalscoring opportunities for teammates. As team captain, he could motivate his squad and lead by example.
Some key attributes and impacts of Maradona’s playing style:
- Exceptional dribbling skills – Maradona could dribble past multiple defenders with sudden changes of pace and direction. His feints, jukes, and inventive footwork dazzled crowds.
- Creative passing and playmaking – His imaginative and pinpoint passes unlocked defenses. Maradona recorded more than 300 assists across his career.
- Clutch scoring – He scored crucial goals in key moments of big games. Maradona netted eight goals across the 1986 World Cup.
- Tenacious competitiveness – His aggressive, fired-up mentality complemented his talent. Maradona would battle relentlessly and inspire teammates.
- Catalyst for Argentina’s World Cup win – Maradona’s individual brilliance propelled Argentina to their 1986 World Cup title.
- Influence on future generations – Players like Messi, Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho have cited Maradona as a major inspiration for their styles.
Maradona is remembered as one of soccer’s most gifted, iconic, and impactful players. His visionary playmaking and goalscoring abilities earned comparisons to the sport’s all-time greats.
What clubs did Maradona play for during his club career?
Diego Maradona spent his prolific club career playing for teams in his native Argentina, Spain, and Italy. Here are the major clubs he represented:
Argentinos Juniors (1976–1981)
- Maradona made his professional debut with Argentinos Juniors at age 15. He made 166 appearances and scored 116 goals.
- Helped the club win the 1978 Metropolitano championship, their first-ever national title.
Boca Juniors (1981–1982)
- Transferred to Boca for a record $4 million and played one season.
- Scored 28 goals in 40 games and led Boca to the 1981 Metropolitano title.
- Played 58 games and scored 38 goals for Barcelona over two seasons.
- Won the Copa del Rey, Copa Liga, and Spanish Super Cup during his stint.
- Was the top scorer in La Liga in 1983-84, but frequent clashes with club leadership led to his departure.
- Transferred to Napoli in Italy’s Serie A for another record fee of $10.5 million.
- Scored 115 goals in 259 games across seven seasons. Led Napoli to their first-ever Serie A titles in 1986-87 and 1989-90.
- Became an icon and adored star amongst Napoli fans for bringing success to the underdog club. His arrival elevated Napoli’s profile.
- Signed with Spain’s Sevilla as a free agent and played one season there.
- Struggled with injuries and weight issues, scoring only 5 goals in 26 games.
Newell’s Old Boys (1993–1994)
- Returned to Argentina to play a final season with Newell’s Old Boys, his boyhood club.
- Scored several key goals but could not prevent his struggling club from being relegated.
Boca Juniors (1995–1997)
- Came out of retirement briefly to return to Boca Juniors and see out the end of his career.
- Played 30 matches and scored 7 goals over two seasons before retiring at age 37.
Though Maradona shined for Barcelona and Napoli, he is best remembered for his brilliant 1986 World Cup performance that transformed Argentina into champions.
What were some controversies and issues during Maradona’s life?
Maradona’s unparalleled soccer skills made him an icon, but he was equally known for controversies and struggles that plagued his personal life:
- Drug addiction – He first tried cocaine in the mid-1980s at Barcelona. His addiction grew during his time at Napoli and affected his health and career.
- Suspensions for drug use – Maradona was suspended twice during his playing career for testing positive for banned substances. He received a 15-month ban during the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for ephedrine.
- Health issues – Years of drug abuse, overeating, and lack of exercise took a toll. He was hospitalized repeatedly in the 2000s and 2010s for problems including heart attacks, respiratory disease, and obesity.
- Illegal children – Maradona had two children out of wedlock before marrying his wife Claudia in 1989. After their divorce, he had more children with mistresses. He recognized 8 children and others filed paternity suits.
- Tax evasion conviction – Maradona was accused of avoiding over $40 million in unpaid taxes from his time playing in Italy. He received a suspended prison sentence in 1998.
- Fiery personality – Maradona frequently made controversial comments about other players, fans, and officials. His outspoken nature didn’t endear him to critics.
- Coaching issues – As Argentina’s head coach in 2010, he led the team to the World Cup quarterfinals but had a falling out with team management and was not retained.
Maradona never shied from the spotlight, but his personal struggles and demons also drew much negative attention during and after his playing career.
How did Maradona impact football globally?
Maradona had a far-reaching influence as one of football’s most iconic superstars both on and off the pitch:
- Inspired millions of fans globally with his magical skill and achievements like Argentina’s 1986 World Cup win.
- Became a cultural icon in Argentina. His face is painted on murals across the country. Argentina’s victory in 1986 amid economic turmoil uplifted the nation.
- Provided hope and pride to the underprivileged. His rise from poverty to stardom resonated with people from similar backgrounds worldwide.
- His rebellious and defiant nature resonated with supporters. Maradona refused to conform and was outspoken against authorities.
- Created a devoted fan base in Napoli who viewed him as their hero. Napoli was a struggling club before Maradona led them to their first league titles.
- Influenced modern footballers with his flair, technique and creativity. Players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar cite him as an inspiration.
- Generated controversy and headlines alongside his fame for issues like drug abuse and outlandish statements. His personal struggles were as well-known as his triumphs.
- Became a successful manager and media personality after retirement. He coached the Argentina national team in 2010 World Cup.
Maradona was undeniably one of football’s most polarizing celebrities. His astonishing career achievements on the pitch and larger-than-life persona off it made him one of the sport’s most recognizable global figures.
What were some of Maradona’s greatest achievements and awards?
Throughout his illustrious career, Maradona accumulated an impressive array of trophies and accolades:
- 1986 FIFA World Cup: Winner, Golden Ball as best player
- 1979 FIFA World Youth Championship: Winner
- Argentine Primera División: Titles in 1981 (Boca Juniors), 1978 (Argentinos Juniors)
- Coppa Italia: 1987 (Napoli)
- UEFA Cup: 1989 (Napoli)
- Serie A (Italy): League titles in 1987 and 1990 (Napoli)
- Copa del Rey (Spain): 1983 (Barcelona)
- FIFA Player of the 20th Century: Voted co-winner with Pelé
- Argentine Sports Writers’ Sportsman of the Century: 1995
- Argentine Footballer of the Century: 1999
- FIFA Goal of the Century: 1986 “Goal of the Century” vs. England voted most beautiful goal in World Cup history
- Diamond Konex Award: Greatest Sportsman of the Decade in Argentina, 1980s
- Napoli all-time leading goalscorer: 115 goals
- Statue at La Bombonera stadium: Immortalized in bronze statue at Boca Juniors’ stadium
Maradona is remembered as one of soccer’s most decorated players. His honors cement his legacy as an all-time great and one of the most accomplished athletes Argentina has produced.
What was Maradona’s impact and legacy after retirement?
After his playing days ended, Maradona remained an influential figure in soccer through coaching, media work, and ambassador roles:
- Continued as a club manager for several teams in Argentina, UAE, and Mexico with mixed results. Coached Argentina in 2010 World Cup.
- Worked as a sports broadcaster and pundit for Argentine and Latin American media outlets. Hosted his own talk show, aired documentaries.
- Served as a brand ambassador and advisor for companies and clubs like Konami, FIFA, Napoli, Manchester City.
- Supported left-wing political leaders like Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, and the Kirchners in Argentina. Was vocal about social issues.
- Remained hugely popular worldwide – received standing ovations at World Cups in South Africa, Brazil, Russia as a spectator.
- Struggled with health problems partly caused by his past drug use and obesity. Underwent multiple hospitalizations and surgeries.
- Attended Argentina games when possible and continued to inspire fans and players. Messi paid tribute to him after scoring at 2018 World Cup.
- Died at age 60 in 2020 from a heart attack just weeks after brain surgery. His death plunged Argentina and Naples into mass mourning.
Though his post-retirement role was less acclaimed than his playing peak, Maradona remained an icon. His legacy as Argentina’s favorite son continued to captivate fans even after his passing.
What made Maradona such a legendary and iconic sports figure?
Maradona attained legendary status for a combination of his prodigious talent, achievements, charisma and activism:
- Considered one of the best ever footballers due to his creative attacking play, pinpoint passing, and mesmerizing dribbling ability. The “Goal of the Century” encapsulated his genius.
- His achievements like winning the 1986 World Cup for Argentina cemented his iconic status. He almost singlehandedly led them to glory.
- Played with passion, flair and visibility. His dramatic goals and animated displays on the pitch made him larger than life.
- Fervent patriotism for Argentina. Maradona’s pride at representing his country resonated deeply with fans.
- Hailed as a working-class hero who rose from poverty to fame. Remained loyal to his roots instead of an elite upbringing.
- Defiant, rebellious attitude against authority endeared him as a rebel fighting the system. Refused to conform even when it caused issues.
- Provided hope, joy and pride for underdog clubs like Napoli by leading them to historic titles. Their fans worshipped Maradona.
- Charisma and outsized personality
- Maradona played 58 games for Barcelona, scoring 38 goals before leaving after conflicts with club management.
- He helped Barcelona win the Copa del Rey, Spain’s domestic cup, in 1983.
- Was the top goal scorer in La Liga in 1983-84, but could not win any leagues with Barcelona.
- Maradona moved to Napoli in Italy’s Serie A for another record fee of $10.5 million.
- He elevated Napoli into an elite club, leading them to their first-ever Serie A titles in 1986-87 and 1989-90.
- Maradona scored 115 goals in 259 games for Napoli. His brilliant play transformed the club and made him a beloved figure in Naples.
- After leaving Napoli in disgrace following his 15-month drug ban, Maradona signed with Spain’s Sevilla in 1992.
- His two seasons at Sevilla were hampered by injuries and declining physical condition. He scored only 7 goals in 29 appearances.
Newell’s Old Boys (1993–1994)
- Returned to Argentina to play a season with Newell’s Old Boys, but scored only 5 goals in 20 games.
- Struggled with weight gain and cocaine abuse during his year back in Argentina.
Boca Juniors (1995–1997)
- Finished his career where he started it, by playing two final seasons with his beloved Boca Juniors.
- Maradona played in 30 games, scoring 7 goals, and winning the Apertura league title in 1996.
- Retired from professional soccer on October 30, 1997, his 37th birthday. He received an emotional farewell from the Boca fans.
What were some controversies and struggles during Maradona’s career?
While Maradona is revered for his soccer achievements, he was also infamous for his struggles and controversies off the pitch:
- Drug abuse – He first used cocaine in the mid-1980s at Barcelona. His addiction worsened at Napoli, eventually leading to a 15-month ban after testing positive at the 1994 World Cup. Maradona went to rehab several times but relapsed.
- Suspension for failed drug test – Maradona was banned and sent home from the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for ephedrine, a banned substance. This ended his international career in disgrace.
- Poor health and weight issues – Cocaine abuse and obesity took a toll on his health, especially after retirement. In 2000, his heart was near failure and he contracted hepatitis. In 2004, he had gastric bypass surgery to lose weight.
- Tax evasion conviction – Maradona was investigated by Italian authorities for avoiding $50 million in taxes while playing for Napoli. After a lengthy legal case, he was convicted in 1998, but avoided jail time.
- Personnel problems – Maradona got into disputes with club and national team management on several occasions, leading to his departure from Barcelona and the Argentina national team.
- Political controversies – He vocally supported controversial leftist leaders like Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. In 2005, he had an anti-American political talk show on Venezuelan TV which led to some backlash.
Despite these issues, Maradona remained hugely popular in Argentina and Naples due to the happiness his magical play once brought to fans. However, his struggles diminished the latter stages of his career.
How and when did Maradona pass away?
After years of health struggles following his soccer career, Diego Maradona died on November 25, 2020 at the age of 60.
In early November 2020, he had surgery in Buenos Aires to remove a blood clot in his brain. After initially successful recovery, he was released and transferred to a house for rehabilitation.
On November 25, Maradona collapsed at the home and could not be revived by paramedics. Authorities determined he died in his sleep of acute heart failure, likely due to his long history of cardiovascular and other medical issues.
Maradona’s death stunned soccer fans worldwide, especially in his native Argentina. Thousands of grieving fans gathered at sites like La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires to pay tribute and mourn his passing.
The Argentine government declared three days of national mourning after Maradona’s death. He received tributes and moments of silence at soccer games around the world. Several of today’s top players, like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, expressed sadness and praise for Maradona’s profound influence.
Maradona was buried at the Jardín de Bella Vista cemetery on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, where his parents were also laid to rest. His funeral was attended by family, friends, former teammates, and heads of state. Argentina lost its most legendary son, but Maradona’s legacy lives on.
What is Maradona’s legacy and impact on soccer?
Diego Maradona left an indelible mark on soccer as one of the most talented, iconic, and celebrated players of all time. Some of his key legacies in the sport include:
- Reviving success for clubs like Napoli and Argentina, who enjoyed their first major titles with Maradona as the catalyst.
- His creative playing style set a standard for skillful dribbling, passing, and imaginative playmaking that influenced future generations.
- Showcasing how smaller, more agile players can outmaneuver defenses with technique and guile.
- Setting the standard for the Number 10 playmaking role that has been emulated by so many attacking midfielders since.
- Achieving global fame and adulation transcending soccer. Maradona was a larger-than-life figure whose passion resonated with working-class fans.
- Becoming a lifelong icon in Argentina. No other player has matched his status and adoration among Argentine fans.
- Inspiring modern superstars like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and more as their childhood idol.
- Reminding fans of soccer’s potential for moments of magic, genius, and wonder. Goals like his weaving solo run against England in 1986 live forever in the sport’s lore.
While Maradona’s personal struggles sometimes overshadowed his talent, his impact on soccer as a transcendent superstar whose play brought such joy is undeniable. The sport lost one of its brightest stars and a true legend.
Diego Maradona lived one of the most extraordinary soccer careers the sport has ever seen.
Rising from humble beginnings in Argentina to become a global superstar, his brilliance on the field mesmerized fans and created moments of magic that will forever be remembered.
Though small in stature, Maradona possessed unmatched skills and creativity with the ball. His invaluable contributions led underdog clubs like Napoli to glory, and he almost singlehandedly carried Argentina to World Cup triumph in 1986. The feats of individual genius he displayed, like his stunning solo goal against England, are etched permanently into soccer’s history.
Maradona’s impact transcended his long list of trophies and records. He became an icon of the beautiful game whose charisma, passion and rebellious nature made him beloved among working-class supporters.
Maradona inspired millions of young players around the world to emulate his ball mastery and technical genius. His legacy continues to influence today’s stars.
While Maradona’s post-retirement life contained struggles with substance abuse and health problems, his sheer magnificence during his prime ensures his status as one of soccer’s greatest legends will endure.
The “Golden Boy” provided unforgettable memories on the pitch and demonstrated how the game should be played at the highest level. Maradona remains one of the most unquenchable and magical talents the sport has ever witnessed.
Frequently Asked Questions about Diego Maradona
When and where was Diego Maradona born?
Diego Armando Maradona was born on October 30, 1960 in Lanús, a suburb just south of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He grew up in Villa Fiorito, a shantytown on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
How many World Cups did Maradona play in and win?
Maradona played in four FIFA World Cup tournaments for Argentina from 1982 to 1994. He led Argentina to the World Cup title in 1986 hosted in Mexico. This was Maradona and Argentina’s second World Cup championship after 1978.
What nickname was Maradona known by?
Maradona was often referred to by the nickname “El Pibe de Oro” meaning “The Golden Boy” in Spanish. This was a reference to his precocious and extraordinary talent exhibited from a young age.
Which club did Maradona play for the longest?
Maradona spent the most seasons (7) playing for Italian club Napoli from 1984-1991. There, he became a legend by leading Napoli to their only two Serie A league titles ever, in 1987 and 1990.
How many goals did Maradona score in his career for club and country?
Maradona scored 345 goals in 679 official appearances across all club and international games in his career spanning 1976 to 1997. For Argentina, he scored 34 goals in 91 appearances.
What family did Maradona have?
Maradona was married to his longtime girlfriend Claudia Villafañe from 1984 to 2004. They had two daughters together, Dalma (b. 1987) and Giannina (b. 1989). Maradona also had a son, Diego Sinagra (b. 1986), from an extramarital affair early in his career.
Why was Maradona expelled from the 1994 World Cup?
Maradona tested positive for five variants of ephedrine, a banned substance, after Argentina’s second game at the 1994 World Cup. He was expelled from the tournament and given a 15-month ban from the sport for doping.
When and how did Maradona die?
Maradona died on November 25, 2020 at the age of 60. He passed away at his home in Argentina due to acute heart failure and pulmonary edema, after recently having brain surgery to remove a blood clot.
What honors and awards did Maradona receive?
Maradona won many individual awards and honors including FIFA Player of the 20th Century, South American Footballer of the Year, Golden Ball at 1986 World Cup, and FIFA Goal of the Century for his solo goal against England in 1986.