While many and most individuals would see Pele as the greatest soccer player in history, he actually shared the “FIFA Player of the Century” award with another man, and that man was Diego Maradona. Maradona was an Argentinian superstar throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and achieved success on both the club and international levels.
Diego Maradona was born in Buenos Aires to a poor family and thus, growing up wasn’t always easy. Like most children in South America, Maradona took an interest in soccer from a young age and by the ripe age of 8, he was already getting the attention of talent scouts while playing pickup games in the neighbourhood. He quickly became a member of the Junior team of his hometown Argentinos Juniors and then would go on to make his professional debut before he was 16 years old.
For the next five years, he would dominate scoring over 100 goals in not even 200 games and then, after a short stint on Boca Juniors, Maradona was transferred to Barcelona for a then-record $5.5 Million. But after a grand total of only two years with Barca, Maradona would be transferred to Napoli, once again breaking the record with a near $8 Million transfer. It was here in Napoli where Maradona would experience much of his success at the club level, winning a number of accolades and helping Napoli to its best era in history.
And while you can see his club career was successful, his international career is what places him among the best of all time. Maradona would represent Argentina at four World Cups. His most successful and memorable was without a doubt the 1986 World Cup in which he captained Argentina to the championship win. His legacy was also cemented in the quarter final of this year as he scored two goals that would be polar opposites. His first goal was an uncalled hand ball that would be known as the “hand of god” and his second was a brilliant dribble throughout numerous players and shot that would be called the best goal in FIFA World Cup history.
So what made Maradona such as special player? First of all, his dribbling ability was unmatched as he seemingly had the ball on a rope at all times, and was creative with the ball at his feet. On top of this skill and creativity, his 5’5 frame allowed him a very low center of gravity, which helped him withstand physicality without losing the ball. The similarities between him and current Argentinian star Lionel Messi are evident as both as wizards with the ball, great passers, who can also score when needed.
Since retiring from playing, Maradona has taken on many coaching jobs in soccer and was actually the head coach for the Argentinian National Team at the 2010 World Cup. Throughout his career, Maradona was truly ahead of his time with his creativity and skill and even if he played in the modern day soccer landscape, watching him would be a treat.