How Diego Maradona Transformed Naples?

In 1984, Diego Armando Maradona was in his prime and regarded as the finest player in the world. After a tumultuous end to his Barcelona career, the world was unsure about his next destination. While there was uncertainty, there was no doubt that his next move was to be just as big as the previous one. When the Argentinian legend chose to move to Naples, the world was left gasping as to why such a decision was made. Little did they know that this was going to be the landmark moment in the legend’s career.

How Diego Maradona Transformed Naples?

Naples, a City Rich in History, Yet Behind the Rest

The city of Naples, situated in the southern parts of Italy was often eclipsed by the glamour of its peers Milan and other football rich cities. The dominance of both Milan based clubs, and the one Juventus club cast a shadow on the other clubs, and Napoli happen to be one of the victims. With only two Coppa Italias to show in its 58-year long history, they seemed lost for the world.
A below quote of a Napoli fan dictates the situation in Naples during the years of despair –
“Those teams- Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan, you couldn’t keep up with them”
“And this also mirrors the social conditions of those cities”

Hope Not Lost

When one of Italy’s poorest cities secured the signing of the best player in the world, the world perplexingly questioned the move.
But none of this stopped the city from spreading joy during an occasion, which can only be referred to as the rebirth of the club, if not the city as a whole.
When Diego Maradona majestically walked through the doors of the San Paolo, it left the fans pinching their skins, as the whole situation was beyond their wildest dreams.

The Promise

In 1984, when Diego Armando Maradona penned a deal with his new club, he made a promise to deliver the Scudetto during his time at the club.
The statement may have been conceived with mockery at first, but most clubs were wary of the threat they could pose in the future. The club was rebuilding at a rapid pace but there was a huge gulf in class and quality.
The club finished 8th in Maradona’s first season. The following season saw the club finished 3rd.

The Underdogs No More

1986 was a year of many things, but none stands out more than the infamous “hand of God” incident. The Argentinian sensation’s prolific run during the World Cup campaign is often synonymous with the handball incident in his own penalty box. The incident gifted Argentina a pathway to the World Cup final which they won.
The year also marks the beginning of a title race which no one saw coming. Napoli moved into the season with confidence but realized the threat posed by the usual forces of Inter Milan and Juventus. The arrival of Silvio Berlusconi at AC Milan in 1986 posed another challenge for the club, but it did not stop them from claiming their maiden Serie A title. The celebratory occasion marked the fulfilment of Maradona’s promise, and as a consequence, he became the greatest player to have ever played for the club. The newly found success was attributed to their first European triumph. In the seasons that followed, they captured their last Serie A title.

The Ever-Controversial

Maradona was no stranger to controversy. Beneath his incredible talent and personality, lied an attitude that often got him entangled with the law. From the one night incident with the then Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar to his addiction to drugs, there was no end to his unique personality.
While some presumed that he could have his tarnished legacy, others including the Napoli faithful never turned their back on him.

Transformation On and Off The Pitch

Maradona’s transformation of Napoli as a football club is well documented and spoke across the world, but how did this affect the city of Naples? to describe the situation at Naples at the time of his arrival, here is what one of the local newspapers read-

“The city lacks a mayor, houses, schools, buses, employment, and sanitation, but none of this matters because we have Maradona”

The arrival of the most expensive player at the time, made the city go through a significant metamorphosis both on and off the pitch. The club became the center of attention. The increased attention meant more fans and revenue.

The Tumultuous End

As his drug problems increased, so did his time off the pitch. The former Boca Juniors forward received many ultimatums, and finally, as a result, he had to call it a day.
To commemorate his stay at the club, the club officially retired his number 10 jersey.
While such an anti-climactic end could have tarnished his legacy, the fans’ continued their support of the man who had almost single-handedly put them on the map.

A Tale to Remember

On the international scene, he heroically captured the world cup in the year 1986. The Maradona experiment lasted a total of 21 years. While there were a few spells along the way, including his time at Sevilla. He is mostly known for a couple of seasons at Barcelona and his seven-year-long stint with Napoli. His love affair with the latter resulted in 115 goals and 81 assists. As the club’s all-time leading topscorer until 2017,  he lifted 2-Serie A titles and the UEFA Cup. On the international scene,
While some remember him for his problems off the pitch, most remember him for his ability and the fact he revolutionized the game.

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