Diego MaradonaRepubblica di Napoli
Without doubt, Diego Maradona, is the greatest player the world has ever witnessed. The Argentina legend is inextricably linked with the colour blue, the sky blue (Albiceleste) of Argentina and the sea blue (Azzurri) of Napoli, derived from the blue waters of the Gulf of Naples.
On 30 June 1984, Diego signed for Napoli from Barcelona, for a (then) world record fee of £6.9 million. The joining of Napoli and Maradona was to become inspirational, but at the time, it was considered a shock move, as Napoli was a team often regarded as relegation candidates. They had never won a single major trophy.
Naples was a city that had always felt ostracised by the more affluent, powerful north of the country, and they looked to the prolific talent of ‘El Pibe de Oro’ to reverse its fortunes against the ‘Seven Sisters’ of Italian football.
In his first season they finished eighth, and continued to improve in the following season. The seasons that followed would go on to be golden years for both club and player, as he and the southern Italian port city found a special bond. Maradona told journalists: 'I want to become the idol of the poor children of Naples, because they are like I was when I lived in Buenos Aires.'
The Neapolitan idea of the ‘scugnizzo’ – the street kid – is identical to the Latin American notion of ‘El Pibe’. It captures the essence of Diego perfectly. Anarchic, genius, rebellious, flawed, individual but with a fierce team ethic, and fiercely protective and supportive of the underdog and the common man. Diego once told a journalist after a victorious game against Fiorentina that when Napoli played, it was 'us against more than just Fiorentina, it’s us against everybody.'
While being relatively short-lived (he departed Italy in 1991), Maradona’s time in Naples was the most successful period in Napoli’s history, winning two scudetti, in 1987 and 1990, the Coppa Italia in 1987, the UEFA Cup in 1989 and the Supercoppa Italiana in 1990. It was also the most successful period in the player's career, captaining Argentina to World Cup victory in Mexico in 1986 and then leading them back to the final in 1990.
He inspired the biggest party the city of Naples has ever seen, with scenes of unbridled joy at finally winning the Italian championship. Equally, the Neapolitans felt purged. The poor southern city had finally ended northern domination. The atmosphere in the city inspired one ecstatic fan to daub “Guys! You don’t know what you’re missing!” in the main cemetery of Naples.
Few great athletes are as politically outspoken as Maradona. Even as a footballer, he was a politician. Every time he touched the ball, the 'malnourished little boy from the slums' embodied the 'little man fighting great powers'. For this, he remains a god to the public of Naples. Diego has a tattoo portrait of his compatriot and hero Che Guevara on his right arm. When talking about this he states 'I carry him on my arm and in my heart. I learned his story, I learned to love him. I think I know the truth about him.'
'The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.' Che Guevara
'Much more definitive and much more lasting than all the gold that one can accumulate is the gratitude of a people.' Che Guevara
'I've been to the Vatican and seen the gold ceilings. And then I hear the Pope saying the Church was concerned about poor kids. So? Sell the ceilings, mate! Do something!' Maradona on Pope John Paul II