It’s April 19, 1989, and Napoli are playing Bayern Munich in the second leg of the UEFA Cup semifinal at Bayern Munich’s Olympiastadion, and something magical is taking place on the pitch for those lucky enough to get to the ground early enough to witness it. The Napoli team are warming up, but there is a side show unfolding. Diego Maradona, a man in the absolute prime of his footballing life, has decided to show off.
It’s understandable, really. This is the best player I have ever seen. Of course, it’s all about opinions, and there are lots of different positions in a team and lots of great players blah blah blah—but this lad was the best there has ever been. So when you are that good, and you know that you are that good, ninety minutes on the pitch—no matter how high profile the game—is simply not long enough to show everyone just how good you are.
The spark which ignites him this particular evening is not what you’d imagine given his well-documented extracurricular habits, it’s a slice of prime 1980s europop—“Live is Life” by Austrian band, Opus. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad tune, but it’s no Toto “Africa”. However, our 5ft 4inch Argentine footballing God couldn’t give a flying fuck what you think about music—he’s feeling the vibe, and all eyes are on him. This is his time to make sure everyone in the ground remembers Diego Armando Maradona forever.
It starts when the Napoli players are in a circle, and he’s having a little stretch. He hears the opening to the tune and his little ears prick up. Then he starts to, well, DANCE. There he is before a semifinal second leg against one the world footballing giants with the not insignificant weight of Naples on his shoulders, and he’s decided to have a bit of a boogie. Then he thinks, fuck these squares, get me a ball.
So now he’s pissing about with a ball with his Puma Kings undone, the glorious bastard. Best thing now is that there is clearly an organised session going on. NOT FOR DIEGO THERE ISN’T. Fuck this lot. The man has single-handedly won the league and the World Cup, so he has earned this. He’s flicking a ball up in the air, balancing it on his head, juggling it on his shoulders, balancing it on his head again—what a man.
Now he’s back with the lads, but he’s not really because his head’s elsewhere. He’s looking around, and then he starts doing a little sex move! Luckily it’s short-lived, but the next bit is incredible. He breaks away from the group again and somehow manages to turn an—let’s be honest—average piece of Eurotrash pop into a work of art by flicking the ball up and creating the kind of performance art the Tate Modern would die for.
All in all, it’s just wonderful. Not only does it display the genius of the man, but it also provides clear evidence that he was better than all the other crushing bores challenging him for his title as Best Player Ever. When you get to that level of debate, the margins are wafer thin. So answer me this, if you’re not sure, who would you fancy a night out with? I mean, who wouldn’t want a night on the tiles with the main fella himself? Cruyff and Puskás are up there, but this is the only man I have any interest in going out and getting mangled with.
There are a few people who have commented on the fact that Diego might have been under the influence of cocaine during that warm up. I can’t imagine it, but I truly hope he was. The mad bastard.
This wonderful piece of writing originally appeared in MUNDIAL Issue 10. That is sold out unfortunately, but if you enjoyed it you should subscribe to our quarterly print publication here.