Diego Maradona – the highs and lows of his colourful and controversial career

Diego Maradona led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986
Diego Maradona led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986 (AP)
17:27pm, Wed 25 Nov 2020
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Diego Maradona widely regarded as one of the greatest and most controversial footballers of all time, has died at the age of 60.

Here, the PA news agency looks back at the highs and lows of his colourful career.

Highs

Winning World Cup in 1986

As their inspirational captain, Maradona almost single-handedly guided Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986. He went to the tournament in Mexico regarded as a the best player in the world and he fulfilled expectations, scoring five goals and setting up another five in a series of superb performances that culminated in final victory over West Germany.

‘Goal of the Century’ against England

Along the way Maradona scored what is widely acclaimed as the greatest goal ever scored against England in the quarter-finals. Although he earned equally negative headlines for another, rather more notorious, goal he scored in the same game – more of which later – Maradona encapsulated everything that was good about his game in a mazy run and dribble that began inside his own half and ended with him sliding the ball past Peter Shilton. It was voted Goal of the Century in a FIFA poll in 2002.

Precocious talent

Maradona was an exciting young talent (PA Archive)

Maradona was a precocious childhood talent and burst on to the grand stage as a teenager. He made his professional debut for Argentinos Juniors at the age of 15 and earned his first Argentina cap at 16 years and 120 days.

Winning two Serie A titles

Napoli pulled off a coup to sign Maradona for a then world record £6.9million fee in 1984. He inspired the club to Serie A successes in 1987 and 1990 as well as the UEFA Cup in 1989.

FIFA Player of the Century

World governing body FIFA decided to create an honour for the best player of the past 100 years at the turn of the century. It ended up being a joint award with organisers unable to separate Pele, the three-time World Cup winner with Brazil, and Maradona.

Lows

The ‘Hand of God’

For many – particularly in England – Maradona’s World Cup success will be forever tainted by controversy. His first of the two he scored in the quarter-final against England was pushed in with his hand as he challenged Shilton for an aerial ball. England protested but the officials missed the offence and Maradona was happy to take advantage. He admitted what he had done after the game by describing the goal as from “the hand of God”.

Losing 1990 World Cup final

Maradona captained Argentina again in Italy in 1990 but hopes of repeat success ended in tears as West Germany avenged their loss of four years previously in an ill-tempered final. Despite reaching the showpiece, it was not vintage Argentina. They suffered a shock loss to Cameroon in their opening game and only scraped past Yugoslavia and Italy on penalties, while Maradona was hampered by injury.

Drugs controversies, other issues and health problems

Maradona lived a colourful life off the field (PA Archive)

Controversy followed Maradona throughout his life. He was banned from football for 15 months after testing positive for cocaine while at Napoli in 1991 and was sent home in shame from the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for another banned substance. He was given a suspended jail sentence in 1998 after shooting at journalists and got involved in a long-running dispute with the Italian government over unpaid taxes. He also had a number of health issues. He had treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, suffered drastic weight gain in the early 2000s and had a heart attack in 2004.

Exit at 2010 World Cup

Maradona went on to manage Argentina but was not successful (PA Archive)

Maradona managed Argentina at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but their run ended in a 4-0 thrashing by Germany in the quarter-finals.

Fan at 2018 World Cup

Maradona attracted plenty of attention in the stands at Russia 2018 (PA Archive)

Maradona attracted plenty of attention in the stands at Russia 2018, where he was Argentina’s most-watched and flamboyant fan. His manic goal celebrations and other antics, including rude gestures, were a natural focus for the cameras but, not in the best of health, they underlined his sad decline. He even needed medical treatment after appearing to collapse at one game.

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