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Curiously, Barça and Napoli have never crossed paths in an official competition. The only times they have met previously have been in three friendlies.
The most recent was in the summer of 2014 in Geneva, and which the Italians scraped a 1-0 win, and which evened things up after Napoli had been the guests at the Gamper three years earlier and were soundly beaten 5-0, with two goals from Leo Messi and one each for Pedro, Cesc Fábregas and Seidou Keita.
That was 33 years and the only previous game between the sides, and 1-1 draw back in May 1978 at the Stadio San Paolo, which would be the second-to-last game that the great Johan Cruyff would ever play in a Barça shirt, two days before his emotional farewell game at the Camp Nou against Ajax.
But rather than Cruyff or Messi, or indeed players like Laurent Blanc and Pepe Reina who played for both clubs at some time or other, it’s another all-time football legend whose name springs to mind whenever these two clubs names are mentioned in the same sentence. The only direct transfer between the two was also one of the highest profile moves ever: Diego Armando Maradona. The Argentinian was at Barça from 1982 to 1984, but then moved to Napoli and stayed there until 1991.
Considered by most to be the greatest player of his era and by many to be the greatest of all time, he came to Catalonia from Boca Juniors. However, his two years at the Camp Nou were not the most distinguished of his illustrious career. First he had hepatitis to deal with and then a serious injury, and it meant Barça fans never really got to see the man at his subliminal best. But there were some memorable moments, such as his amazing chip against Red Star Belgrade in the 1982/83 Cup Winners’ Cup or his goal at the Bernabéu in the 1982/83 League Cup, which even the home fans started applauding.
A 23-year-old Maradona decided to change club and country and so his love affair with Napoli began, a story that had its ups and downs but that definitively won his place among the football aristocracy. From the day he arrived at the San Pablo wearing the blue shirt for the first time, Maradona’s name has practically been synonymous with the proud Italian club.
5 July 1984 marked the beginning of the most glorious period in Napoli history. He went on to score 115 goals for the club and help them to win the only two Serie A titles it has ever won (86/87 and 89/90), plus the Coppa Italia (86/87) and the UEFA Cup (88/89).
His number 10 shirt has since been retired. Maradona is nothing short of a legend in Naples.
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