Who Is The #GOAT ???
There’s a massive ongoing debate about who is the GOAT – Greatest Of All Time – when it comes to football. Some say it must be CR7. Others believe that accolade belongs to Lionel Messi.
And both are wrong in our view. Diego Armando Maradona remains the GOAT.
Maradona was the first footballing superstar of the modern age. A global superstar who drew massive, intrusive and constant media attention – both on and off the pitch daily.
He was hounded by the Paparazzi. This is the norm with footballers now, it wasn’t in the 1980s.
Diego was supporting his entire family of eight at 15. Already dubbed Pele’s successor at 18, Maradona was a football prodigy in every sense of the word.
Pele had famously said he felt Maradona wasn’t mentally ready to deal with the pressures of this fame. Prophetic words, indeed.
Context is important. This wasn’t the modern age of football – with its huge player wages: slick, glamorous and controlled. The games themselves were filmed with four or six analog cameras – so what the viewer saw was slower, less intricate and less detailed.
There were no personal PR and image makers; no personal nutritionist or physios and massage therapist. None of the support system the modern player has existed. Maradona was the ultimate football outlier.
Also, the game itself was more physical – brutal even. For instance, what is a straight red card tackle, studs showing from behind, was perfectly acceptable, indeed encouraged, in most European leagues. The bigger the reputation, the bigger the target on your back. And this was worse at senior international level competitions.
So constant injury was a reality. One doubts whether CR7 or Messi could have coped.
Maradona remains the only player to have set the world record transfer fee twice in a row. From Boca Juniors of Buenos Aires to Barcelona was a £5m ($7.6m) fee. Not a lot now, but then an eye watering amount.
Not that he saw much of this cash. In South America, players ‘economic rights’ can still be owned by third parties. His ‘owners’ got most of it.
Barca was bad for Diego. As well as illness and injury, he didn’t fit in – had a problem with authority, and the kid from Villa Fiorito was very much who he still was. You can take the kid out of the ghetto, but…
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The 1984 Copa Del Ray final against Athletico Bilbao broke the camel’s back. In front of the King of Spain, 100,000 fans and 50% of the country watching on TV, Maradona had a brawl. You can’t take the ghetto out of the kid.
His £6.9m ($10.4m) move to Napoli, was both a record and surprising. Especially given what happened at Barca. More so as this was a move to Napoli.
They were the minnows of Serie A compared to Juve, Milan and other northern Italian teams. Naples was also seen as the pits of Italy, and Neapolitans were considered scum – the ‘Africans of Italy’ as Maradona put it.
Naples took Maradona as one of their own – and this love was reciprocated. If you overlook the fact that the club had an alleged link with the Camorra – the Local mafia – and that Diego was ‘friends’ with the most powerful family, the Guiliano Family. Effectively he was under mafia protection.
This is about Maradona as a footballer, not as a person. And in football terms, he peaked at Napoli. And this is what makes him the GOAT. Imagine Newcastle pre-Saudi oil money signing Ronaldo or Messi – without strengthening the other positions – going from bottom feeders to champions in just three seasons. Napoli also won her first European silverware, the UEFA Cup (UEFA Europa League now) in 1989 with Maradona.
And then there is the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. This is what clinches it. Maradona inspired, drove and actualised a fairly average team winning football’s biggest prize. Basically on his own. At 25.
He scored five of their 11 goals (had one disallowed or would have shared Golden Boot with Linaker); was Player of the Tournament; and provided the assist for the winning goal in the final against favourites West Germany.
Then add to this his goals against England in the Quarter Finals. The first was the infamous ‘Hand of God’; while the second was the most brilliant individual goal ever seen at a Mondial (Brazil 1970 against Italy remains the most sublime team goal).
And there you have the paradox that is Maradona.
Argentine Sports Journalist, Daniel Arcucci, puts it quite brilliantly in ‘Diego Maradona’ the documentary currently streaming on Amazon Prime. “If someone wants to explain the myth around Maradona, it’s enough to refer to the match against England.”
He scored two goals. The first was by cheating; the second was subliminal skill, pace, balance, vision, strength, guile, precision, brilliance, and accuracy. There’s a metaphor for all football encapsulated in there somewhere.
Could either CR7 or Messi have done the same? Can either of them really by considered the GOAT if they don’t win Qatar 2022?
What do you think? Who is the GOAT footballer for you and why?
Have your say below…
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© Ayo Alli 2022
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