”Even if I played for a million years, I’d never come close to Maradona. Not that I’d want to anyway. He’s the greatest there’s ever been.”Lionel Messi
The fact that a maestro such as Lionel Messi was inspired by Maradona shows you how much he has influenced generations of footballers. With the departure of this legend, let’s travel back the timeline and reminisce some of the most iconic moments of Maradona.
1. Hand of God: Argentina 2-1 England, 1986
It was the 1986 FIFA World Cup quarter-final, a tantalizing match between two rivals — England and Argentina. Both sets of passionate fans got together at the Estadio Azteca stadium in Mexico, awaiting a fiery and passionate win for their team.
In the 51th minute, Maradona got the ball just outside the congested D-box of the England team. Maradona dribbled past an English player and passed it to Valdano. A defender from team England cleared the ball which lofted towards the England goalpost. Maradona had reached the goalpost by that time and only the goalkeeper, Peter Shilton, was in his way. Both were dueling for an aerial ball and Maradona was about 7 inches shorter than the goalkeeper. He jumped towards the ball and flicked the ball inside the goal.
When asked later about the goal, he said, “A little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God,” thus, giving this infamous goal the title ‘Hand of God’.
2. The Divine Free Kick: Napoli 1- Juventus 0, 1985
In the city of Naples, Maradona is considered no less than a god. He played for Napoli, the professional football club based in Naples, and the goal that gave him a godlike status was against Napoli’s fiercest rival Juventus.
He wrote in 2017, “With this goal, I conquered the hearts of Neapolitans.“
It was a home match against their most ferocious rival, Juventus. So, tensions were running high in the stadium. Winning a home match against such a nemesis was a must for Napoli.
It was a very common scenario, Maradona received the ball around the center spot and ran towards the Juventus goal. After 4 attempts of foul, he was finally brought down and Napoli got awarded a free-kick just a few yards from the post. A small touch from Pecci, and Maradona lifted the football magically above the defenders and placed the ball right at the near corner of the post. After the goal, the crowd erupted into a tumultuous celebration.
3. Goal of the Century: Argentina 2-1 England, 1986
After the infamous “Hand of God” goal, the match between England and Argentina upped its tempo another level. To add a bit more context, the match was already in a tumultuous atmosphere as the two nations had an unstable political relationship because of the dispute over the Falkland Islands.
4 minutes after the first goal, Maradona found himself with the ball in the right mid position. With the ball on his stronger foot, he ran towards the defenders. Garry Stevens, Terry Butcher, and Terry Fenwick tried thwarting him but he danced past towards them consecutively with the lightest of touches.
The goalkeeper, Peter Shilton, tried to offer some resistance by spreading his body in front of the maestro but to no avail. Maradona dribbled past him as well and tapped the ball in the goal. This later became known as the ‘famous goal of the century’.
4. Argentina 3 – Germany 2, 1986
It is said that in the 1986 FIFA World Cup, Maradona single-handedly won Argentina the cup. After defeating England and Belgium, Argentina faced the ferocious German side led by Rummenigge in the World Cup final.
After falling behind by 2 goals, the German team astounded their opponent with a quick comeback. They scored 2 goals within 13 minutes to level the scoring field. In the 84th minute, however, Maradona changed the game with a magical pass. He got the ball in midfield and lofted the ball over the German defenders to Argentine forward, Burruchaga, which resulted in the winning goal. Although Maradona didn’t score in this match, he became a legend by bringing home the 1986 World Cup for Argentina.
5. Napoli 3- Milan 0, 1990
Having won their first scudetto in 1986, Napoli failed to continue their dominating run the next two years. Since they were thwarted by both Milan clubs, they wanted to exact revenge on them.
Napoli faced their arch-nemesis in February 1990 at the San Siro stadium. Maradona put on a scintillating performance by pulling out two magical assists and scoring a goal. Napoli ended up winning 3-0 on away ground. Napoli eventually won their second scudetto in that season, hence making this match vital.
Maradona has influenced billions of people and changed the game of football. Although he didn’t live a very long life, he’ll always remain an undisputed legend of the game. If you have read this far, let us know which moment of Maradona you relished the most.