Maradona is proof that clubs will tolerate off-field flaws for magic on the pitch

Maradona is proof that clubs will tolerate off-field flaws for magic on the pitch

Diego Maradona was a flawed genius whose off-the-field antics didn't prevent him winning all the major trophies. Picture: PA Photo/Alfredo Capozzi.

WHEN it comes to debating the greatest football of all-time, Diego Maradona’s name is sure to be mentioned.

A gifted footballer who achieved so much in the game, he is also remembered for the wrong reasons off the pitch. It's why e will never be truly considered the greatest.

I was too young to witness Maradona playing at his peak. Football fans of the 80s will say there was no better player than the Argentine and they may be right.

After watching the Maradona documentary last weekend, it filled me with mixed emotions.

Happy to see such greatness but sad, to see ill-discipline in one of the all-time great players.

I normally spend my Saturday evenings watching highlights of the day’s football from the United Kingdom but with the suspension of the leagues across the water, I, like many other football supporters, having been trying to find any programme that will give me my ‘football fix’.

The Maradona documentary certainly filled that void last weekend and gave us an insight into what it takes to be the best but also what not to do if players want to stay at the top.

From growing up in the poor area of Argentina to becoming one of the most recognised persons in the world, Maradona’s career was anything but boring. Maradona has played for numerous clubs throughout his career but he was at his peak during his seven years playing for Napoli.

The documentary allows us to understand more about what type of character Maradona was. The Argentinean was a fighter. Leaving Barcelona — one of the greatest clubs in the world — to join Napoli was a strange decision by the genius but one that paid dividend. He created history with the Italian club and for a long time in Naples, was adored by everyone in the city.

It’s easy to see why the fans loved him because of his passion and hunger to win. Napoli were looked down upon by other clubs in Italy and maybe that’s one of the reasons Maradona decided to join the club. He was brought up in a poor area in Argentina and always felt things were against him and probably felt at home by joining Napoli.

Besides his undoubtedly gifted talent on a football field, it was easy to see why Maradona was one of the greats. What stood out for me when watching the documentary is that the Argentinean had his own personal trainer. In an era in football when most players wouldn’t have known what a PT was, never mind have one, Maradona was finding ways of how to better himself from the rest.

He was an intelligent and humble footballer. When he arrived in Italy, he spoke about how different the league was and that he simply could not just play his usual game and had to adapt. Maradona realised that it was him that was the problem and not football and he needed to adjust.

The former Barcelona player was a real leader on the pitch. Perhaps his upbringing helped him to develop into a natural leader but he seemed to enjoy the added pressure and responsibility that it takes to be a leader.

The type of leader teams like Manchester United and Arsenal could do with at this time.

Maradona dragged a below-average Napoli team from near the bottom of league, to a team that won the Supercoppa Italiana, Coppa Italia, UEFA Cup and two league titles. Imagine what greatness he would achieve with this current United side. A player like him would make United genuine title contenders again.

It was funny watching the documentary and seeing how much football has changed. Maradona made his Napoli debut wearing a silver necklace whereas nowadays, players aren’t allowed wear different coloured tape on their socks.

Modern football is becoming a less physical sport. Players are being protected more and more from any rough treatment from an opponent. 

During Maradona’s time, players weren’t given this protection which makes the Argentinean’s brilliance even more impressive. Opponents would try every tactic by elbowing and kicking Maradona but unlike most modern players, the World Cup winner took it in his stride.

Of course, it's difficult not to mention his off-field antics when discussing Maradona. His drug addiction did eventually take its toll and played its part in Maradona’s downfall. We see during the documentary that Napoli were aware of his problems but as long as he was doing the business on the pitch, they were willing to turn a blind eye. 

That might be seen as Napoli being neglectful but this sort of behaviour still happens — albeit to a lesser extent— by clubs now. They will ignore if a player is drinking or gambling excessively as long as he keeps performing on the pitch.

Picture: Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images
Picture: Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images

It would be interesting to see Maradona be a player in modern times. He would have a lot more protection on the pitch but off it, he would not get away with how he behaved during his playing days. Between camera phones and social media, Maradona would spend more time in the stands, banned from football, than he would on the pitch.

Maradona was a genius and what he achieved throughout his career was remarkable. The documentary has allowed me to appreciate more just how good he was but I still don’t think he is the best ever to play the sport.

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