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Today sees the first anniversary of the death of Diego Armando Maradona.
On 25 November 2020 FC Barcelona and the world of football lost a man who had made a great impression on both. The Argentine wore the Barça shirt between 1982 and 1984, scoring 47 goals in 75 matches.
Considered one of the best players of all time, the Argentine star was born in Lanús, a town near Buenos Aires, on October 30, 1960. He started playing football in the streets around his neighbourhood and at the age of twelve he was part of the children's team Los Cebollitas.
In 1974 he signed for Argentinos Juniors, a club where he remained until February 1981, scoring 116 goals in 166 games. It was at that time that he was able to lift his family out of poverty. The striker, a stocky 1.68 metres tall, was already enchanting everyone with his great skill, his wonderful left foot, change of pace, speed and dribbling. In the 1980-81 season he was transferred to Boca Juniors, where he would win the league. FC Barcelona had already started negotiations for his signing, but the Asociación del Fútbol Argentino (AFA) opposed it and everything was postponed until after the World Cup in Spain 82.
Maradona at Barça: Unforgettable goals
Finally, in the summer of 1982, Maradona signed for FC Barcelona. Whilst at the club, Maradona proved to be a great player, but was only able to show off his immense class on rare occasions, such as the goal he scored against Red Star in the 1982/83 European Cup Winners' Cup or at the Santiago Bernabéu in the Copa de la Liga of the same season, which even provoked the applause of the Madrid fans. Maradona's first serious setback at Barça came when he contracted hepatitis, for which he had to rest for a few months.
His return to the team coincided with the dismissal of Udo Lattek and the arrival of César Luis Menotti in March 1983, the latter managing to save the season with two victories over the eternal rival, Real Madrid, in the finals of the Copa del Rey and the Copa de la Liga. In his second campaign at Barça (1983/84), Maradona was on the receiving end of a challenge from Athletic Club player Andoni Goikoetxea, which caused a fractured ankle. The Argentine reappeared before the end of the league season, but Barça could no longer fight for the title. The club also lost the Copa del Rey final to Athletic Club in a match that went down in history due to the fights between the players of both teams at the end of the match.
Maradona played 75 matches for Barça and scored 47 goals, winning the 1982-83 Copa del Rey, the 1982-83 Copa de la Liga and the 1983 Spanish Super Cup. His relationship with the board deteriorated until, after the defeat in the 1984 Copa del Rey final, he forced his way out of the club and joined Napoli, where he would go on to win two league titles, an Italian Cup and a UEFA Cup.
Hero with the Argentine national team
With the Argentine team he won the World Cup at Mexico 86, a tournament in which he stood out, above all, in a match against England. He scored two goals, including one with his hand which went down in history as 'the hand of God,' and another exceptional strike that is considered one of the best in the history of the competition. After the 1990 World Cup in Italy, where Argentina were runners-up, he was banned by FIFA for drug use until June 30, 1992.
He then signed for Sevilla, where he had a short career. In 1993 he briefly went to Newell's Old Boys in Argentina, and the 1994 World Cup in the United States looked like it would be his resurrection. However, he tested positive again for drug use which virtually ended his career. He returned to play for Boca Juniors between 1995 and 1997, and after retiring permanently, Maradona periodically coached and became Argentina's coach (2008-2010).
Barça pay tribute
On 25 November 2020 Barça was in mourning and the tributes came thick and fast. One of the most notable came on the pitch itself at Camp Nou with Leo Messi paying tribute to his fellow Argentine in his goal celebration against Osasuna by revealing the jersey Maradona had worn during his time with Newell's Old Boys.
A year on and the tributes persist. On 14 December FC Barcelona and Club Atlético Boca Juniors will play in the inaugural Maradona Cup to honour the former blaugrana's memory. The game will take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in the Mrsool Park Stadium and will be broadcast on Barça TV+ to remember a player who left us a year ago today.
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