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An utterly mesmerising player with the ball at his feet, even at a time when it was virtually legal to break his legs.  There is loads of good stuff on Netflix / Amazon and the recent Diego documentary shows him as the most flawed of geniuses.  But bloody hell, just watch this.  (Like, it seems, everyone in the stadium is.)

 

 

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Under current football laws with the snooker table pitches and lack of scything down from behind I have no doubt that he'd eclipse what even Messi & Ronaldo are doing now - providing he could have kept himself clean and out of trouble.

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6 minutes ago, layten said:

image.thumb.png.f5411698bdffa8ae934a239d5492552d.png

 

The thing about this photo is that it's out of context and the full story is far, far less interesting.  (He's basically at the side of a free kick wall, hence so many players have turned to face him.)

 

However, we see what we want to see and want to acknowledge his talent and genius because he was the best.  So ultimately, there is a perfectly Maradona-esque contradiction in that image - the cheat and the genius, the on and the off field, the lunatic and the maestro.

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1 minute ago, Art Vandelay said:

Probably an apocryphal tale, but he was supposed to have joined Arsenal in 1982 but the FA didn't fancy non-EEC players in the league at the time. He might have died at 60 but he can still count himself lucky that didn't work out.

 

Ricky Villa and Osvaldo Ardiles were at Spurs at the time, or would have been but for the Falklands War.

 

I'm sure Sheffield United were the ones who were tipped off to him, not Arsenal.

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Ah fuck. I was 10 years old when Mexico 86 happened and it was my awakening to football. Even though he scored THAT goal, his second in that game is one of the absolute best. 

 

RIP Legend. 

 

(That recent doc about him was fascinating)

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2 minutes ago, Plissken said:

Ricky Villa and Osvaldo Ardiles were at Spurs at the time, or would have been but for the Falklands War.

 

I'm sure Sheffield United were the ones who were tipped off to him, not Arsenal.

 

I think it's just one of those stupid 'what if' legends. There is however this block-print tabloid clipping. If that doesn't prove it was a done deal I don't know what does. I'd always heard the version Gotters had too – Don Howe didn't fancy him and we went all in on Lee Chapman which was a canny move.

 

image.png.2a9ae822d775f967d743386028c24756.png

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Maradona is on record as saying Arsenal were in for him.  The thing is everybody was in for him, Boca paid $4m for him from and then almost doubled their money by selling him to Barcelona a year later, then Barcelona almost doubled their money by selling him to Napoli in '84.  I'm sure there will be loads of stories about him nearly joining XYZ but I don't think there was enough money in the English game at the time to genuinely make it happen. 

 

What a player though.  My first footballing memories are from 1986, the FA Cup final between Liverpool and Everton is the first game I distinctly remember watching and then the World Cup which followed it. I was a bit young (7) at the time to realise why everybody hated Maradona because of the handball and had no idea whatsoever about the Falklands War adding spice to the mix so was quite happy to go along with the pantomime villain act probably until the 94 World Cup.  The photo of him celebrating against Greece is one of the most iconic in a career full of iconic moments but it's easy to forget just how amazing that goal was too.  

 

 

RIP Diego. We hardly knew ye. 

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52 minutes ago, Art Vandelay said:

 

I think it's just one of those stupid 'what if' legends. There is however this block-print tabloid clipping. If that doesn't prove it was a done deal I don't know what does. I'd always heard the version Gotters had too – Don Howe didn't fancy him and we went all in on Lee Chapman which was a canny move.

 

image.png.2a9ae822d775f967d743386028c24756.png

Another player Wenger almost signed ;)

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Wanted by Sheffield United and Leeds. From The Athletic:

 

Spoiler

Diego Maradona being wanted by one mid-table Second Division club from Yorkshire seems a tad unlikely. But two?

That, though, was the reality for arguably the greatest footballer of all time back in the days when Argentina ruled the football world. Sheffield United and Leeds United were the two clubs to display more than interest in Maradona. The two approaches came almost a decade apart but the end results were the same. A deal could not be struck and Maradona never made it to these shores.

Imagine, however, if he had. The likely impact made by a teenage Maradona on Bramall Lane would surely have been off the scale had manager Harry Haslam got his man on the back of a scouting trip made in the weeks after Argentina had lifted the World Cup for the first time.

Ditto at Elland Road, where in the summer of 1987, an audacious bid was launched to bring the hottest property in world football to England.

A year earlier, Maradona had almost single-handedly won Argentina its second World Cup but Bill Fotherby, Leeds’s ambitious managing director at the time, wasn’t fazed. He felt a deal could be struck, even if his optimism was not necessarily shared by Billy Bremner, the club’s manager at the time.

Once asked by this correspondent what Bremner’s reaction had been when told talks had taken place with Maradona’s agent, Fotherby replied with a deadpan face: “Well, put it this way, Billy didn’t exactly do any double somersaults on being told the news.”

Bremner’s caution was wise. A deal that Leeds felt could be struck for a price of around £5 million and funded by sponsorship ultimately floundered, meaning Maradona stayed at Napoli.

Fotherby passed away last year. But he always railed against those who felt the bid — revealed on the front page of the local evening paper to a bemused public — had been nothing but a publicity stunt. “It was no gimmick,” he said. “Not at all.”

So, just how close did these two second-tier Yorkshire clubs come to landing one of the game’s true greats? The Athletic decided to find out.

Argentina, 1978. A World Cup that would in time be regarded as one of the most colourful in the tournament’s long history, ends with the hosts as champions.

A 3-1 victory over Holland after extra-time brings joy to the streets of Buenos Aires and turns Mario Kempes into the darling of a nation. Argentina are sitting on top of the world and even English football, so insular in the recent past, could not fail to notice.

Rich pickings, it seemed, were to be had. And Sheffield United, back down in the Second Division a year after a decent run in the top flight, were right at the front of the queue thanks to the visionary Haslam. United historian John Garrett takes up the story.

“There were three clubs who arranged to fly out,” he tells The Athletic. “United, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. At the last minute, Arsenal had to drop out and Terry Neill’s place went to Tony Pritchett (the Sheffield Star reporter who covered United for 30 years).

“He joined Harry Haslam and director John Hassell on the flight, plus (Tottenham manager) Keith Burkinshaw and all the rest of their party. The World Cup had shown just how many incredibly talented players there were in Argentina and both clubs were determined to take advantage.

“Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles were supposedly wanted by Sheffield United but, for whatever reason, there was a change of plan on the flight. It could have been a realisation that Spurs also wanted them and had the big advantage of being able to offer top flight football. Either way, Ardiles and Villa ended up signing for Spurs and United pressed on with their own deals.”

Tottenham, back in the elite after pipping Brighton & Hove Albion to the third and final promotion place on goal difference a couple of months earlier, were happy with their work in South America. With good cause, too, as Villa and Ardiles went on to become huge favourites at White Hart Lane.

For United, the disappointment of seeing two World Cup winners go to a rival, albeit one now from the division above, was tempered by the knowledge that a couple of transfers for Argentinian players had already been agreed before they even flew out.

Alex Sabella, a midfielder with River Plate, had been identified as the sort of talent capable of inspiring a promotion push at a club who had just finished 12th in the second tier. So, too, had Pedro Verde, a skilful striker with European experience having played in Spain perhaps better known in the UK today as Juan Sebastian Veron’s uncle.

Haslam was pleased with both signings. But he wanted more and agents plying their trade in South America knew it. Which is how the Sheffield United party ended up on the outskirts of Buenos Aires watching a player who had missed out on Argentina’s World Cup squad due to Cesar Luis Menotti, the chain-smoking manager, believing he was too young.

Haslam loved what he saw from a 17-year-old who already had two seasons of experience playing for Argentinos Juniors to his name. “I’ll take him,” he said.

Following subsequent discussions with the United board, a transfer fee of £150,000 was agreed. Diego Armando Maradona seemed destined to become a Sheffield United player.

Hours later, however, matters had taken a sinister turn via a knock on the manager’s hotel door.

Standing there was a member of the junta running the country — Argentina being a military dictatorship at the time following a coup. Having revealed that those in charge knew United were paying a six-figure fee for Maradona, he told Haslam that a further similar-sized sum would have to be paid on top if the military was to let the player leave the country.

“The money was not a problem,” adds Garrett. “The problems came because things had suddenly got political. Having to bribe someone to sign a player was not the sort of thing United wanted to be involved in. It made the directors uncomfortable.

“So, in the end, the club walked away from the deal. Of course, the story has built up since then of how United failed to sign Maradona because they couldn’t afford the transfer and came back with Sabella instead.

“But that isn’t what happened. Even for a 17-year-old, the money at that time was there and United were prepared to take a gamble. It is an amazing story, really.”

Unlike Tottenham, United’s foray into the Argentinian market did not pay off. Sabella proved popular with supporters thanks to the array of feints, vision and masterly control that would, in time, earn him eight senior caps. But Haslam’s team were relegated at the end of the 1978-79 season and Sabella left for Leeds in a £400,000 deal a year later. 

Verde, meanwhile, arrived 12 months after Sabella but had a disappointing stint at Bramall Lane, scoring just three times in 10 appearances before returning home.

As a further relegation followed in 1982, this time to the basement division, that sense of ‘What if?’ over the aborted attempts to sign Maradona grew ever more acute.

Leeds fans never really had that same feeling of missing out following their own club’s flirtation with signing Maradona nine years later, mainly because their bid seemed so fanciful in the first place.

Not only was Maradona by now lauded in southern Italy after leading Napoli to their first Serie A title just weeks earlier but Leeds had been in the second tier for the past five years. Why, cynical supporters asked, would Maradona even consider such a backwards step?

Managing director Fotherby, though, remained unperturbed. A meeting was set up with Maradona’s agent in London, where it was explained a deal would cost between £5million and £6 million. Talk then turned to Maradona, who it was explained to Fotherby had already agreed to play one more season for Napoli, visiting Leeds to make a personal appearance.

At that stage, Fotherby was so hopeful of striking a deal that he even contacted the city’s Civic Hall about possibly hiring out the venue so the sponsors he had lined up could meet Maradona.

Don Warters, the chief football writer of the Yorkshire Evening Post, broke the story of Leeds’s interest. “Bill rang me one afternoon at 2pm and said Leeds were speaking to Maradona’s agent about signing him,” he recalls. “My first reaction was to say, ‘You what?’ Bill, though, was adamant so I spoke to my bosses.

“Our last edition of the day had already gone but the decision was taken to run a special. We didn’t want the story coming out anywhere else.”

Asked if he felt a deal to sign Maradona was ever genuinely on, Warters replies: “Fotherby definitely believed he had a chance. He was a great salesman and a journalist’s dream, in many ways. He knew the value of publicity and wanted Leeds United in the local paper.”

In time, though, even the super-optimistic Fotherby had to admit defeat. “Things just petered out,” the former United manager director told me when we were chatting in Harrogate one afternoon in 2010. “It was a real shame as it would have been amazing for Leeds United.

“But even though the deal didn’t work out it still earned us huge publicity that I believe helped play a part in the rebirth of the club under Howard Wilkinson a few years later.”

Two attempts to bring arguably the world’s greatest player to Yorkshire and two contrasting tales, with surely Sheffield United having most cause to bemoan the ‘one that got away’.

(Photo: Frank Leonhardt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

 

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2 hours ago, Plissken said:

 

Ricky Villa and Osvaldo Ardiles were at Spurs at the time, or would have been but for the Falklands War.

 

I'm sure Sheffield United were the ones who were tipped off to him, not Arsenal.


Pffft, he was is a Spurs legend.

 

Easily the best player to play in my time of watching football, Napoli legend - RIP :(

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4 hours ago, Plissken said:

 

The thing about this photo is that it's out of context and the full story is far, far less interesting.  (He's basically at the side of a free kick wall, hence so many players have turned to face him.)


Thanks for that mate. Maybe if they show this photo at his funeral you can grab the mic from his grieving family and let everyone know.

 

I think most people know the context, it’s still a fantastic photo. You don’t have to treat every moment in life like you’re on an episode of QI.

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1 hour ago, dizogg said:


Thanks for that mate. Maybe if they show this photo at his funeral you can grab the mic from his grieving family and let everyone know.

 

I think most people know the context, it’s still a fantastic photo. You don’t have to treat every moment in life like you’re on an episode of QI.

Haha, not far from what I thought when I read it.:sealclap:

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