If there is a soccer player who amazed the world in all sorts of ways, Diego Armando Maradona would be that one. A hero, but also a villain. An icon, but also an example of bad. All this depends on the reader and the angle of view he takes once speaking about Maradona.
But one thing is sure. There won't be his replica, and there won't be any other player like him. Even if he knows how to dribble, score goals, take free kicks, he won't have the colorful and controversial personality such as Maradona's. It's no wonder his autobiographies are at the very top of the 100 best sports books of all time.
Starting to play for the youth team of Argentinos Juniors at the age of nine, he was immediately labeled as a miracle, leading his club to 140 straight wins. Having just 15 years, he was already in the senior squad, wearing No.10, and filling the stadiums all over Argentina.
With the World Cup in soccer in Argentina approaching, the pressure on the national head coach, Cesar Luis Menotti, to put Maradona in the team was reaching its peak, but the 17-year old at the time, watched Argentina winning the championship on TV.
But his rise started from there. He led the junior team to the World Cup win one year after, becoming the most prolific player in the whole of South America. A transfer to Boca Juniors, where he won the first club trophy, 1981 Metropolitano, followed, and after that jump to Spain, to Barcelona, which was the highest-paid move in pro soccer, $7.6 million.
He won several trophies and became the first player to receive applause at Santiago Bernabeu, the home of Barca's archrival, Real Madrid. Even though he had many problems with injuries during his stay at Camp Nou, Maradona became arguably the best player Spain saw.
However, his first contacts with drugs were developed here, and later on, that was what speeded up his fall.
But not before touching the stars.
In 1984, Maradona went to Napoli for a record sum of $12 million, and changes the balance of power in Italian and European football. In six years at San Paolo, Napoli and Maradona won five trophies, two Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, one UEFA Cup, and one Supercoppa Italiana. This was the time when the world had the opportunity to see the Argentinian at his best.
In 1986, he would fulfill his dream and lead the national team to another world title, his first and only, delivering numerous highlight reels, and setting the standards when talking about the individual performances.
Many remember two goals against England, the "Hand of God" and the one when he took the ball in his own midfield, passed the entire defense before hitting the back of the net. But just a few know about his hits vs. Belgium in the semis, when Maradona had another burst of creativity in the span of 10 minutes.
He was the absolute ruler of football, the king, the emperor, alone at the top.
But the bad habits, including drug abuse, have started to take over, and we've seen Maradona playing tremendous football but having problems in his personal life and losing control more and more often.
After the World Cup finals' loss in 1990, his career went downwards, and it seems that the defeat against Germany hurt the fantastic midfielder like never before. He left Napoli for a brief stint in Sevilla, where he didn't even play too much, and after that, he went back to Argentina.
In 1994, he would appear once more at the World Cup, but only to be suspended after testing positive for prohibited substances. In 1997, Maradona retired, playing for Boca Juniors.
What happened after could be described as a constant struggle and battle with himself. Numerous health problems, therapies, comebacks, stints as a coach, spending time with high-profile political leaders, all that was normal for Maradona.
But in the end, he couldn't get out of that circle, and one of the people who shaped the history of this sport, became immortal on November 25, once he departed from this world, only to touch the stars again.
And to never leave them again.
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