When Maradona and Napoli won Serie A in 1989-90. football news

On 29 April 1990, Napoli won their second and so far final Serie A title. It was at home and after a 1-0 win against Lazio in their last match, the battle with AC Milan went down to the wire. The only goal came in the seventh minute, as central defender Marco Baroni headed home Diego Maradona’s free-kick, ending another Italian season marred by controversy, but also one that heralded the arrival of Gianfranco Zola.

Armando Maradona cheers after the Napoli team won its first Italian major league title in Naples (AP)

“This is proof that I know myself better than anyone!” Maradona shouted after the final whistle. “And this is the down payment for being allowed to live my life! I want to live my life, please,” he wrote in El Diego, the autobiography translated into English by Marcela Mora y Araújo. No one knew better than Maradona that being famous and “living my life” was like playing a bishop of the opposite color in chess.

reluctant star

How else can you explain that Napoli’s last league title came when Maradona didn’t even have to play for them? To bring Maradona to Olympique Marseille, Bernard Tapie promised riches beyond the imagination of a footballer in the 1980s. Maradona’s annual salary will double to $12m, he will live in a villa “that has a 6000m park for my daughter (Dalma), a swimming pool for my family to enjoy. (El Diego).

Napoli president Corrado Feraleno had promised to release Maradona if they won the UEFA Super Cup in 1989. Napoli did. But in the midst of the celebrations, Ferleno told Maradona that he should honor his contract, which ran until 1993. Maradona’s autobiography, Guillaume Balag’s ‘The Boy, the Rebel, the God’ and Jimmy Burns’ ‘Hand of God’ are consistent in their description. of this incident. In 1993, Marseille won the European Cup, the precursor to the Champions League, by defeating AC Milan, so who knows how that story would have ended.

But in 1989, Maradona felt tied down to a long-term deal. By then, his relations with Ferleno, which had never been very comfortable, had deteriorated. Not being with coach Ottavio Bianchi didn’t help either. Like another World Cup winner as captain of Argentina, Maradona would leave town without informing the club. But, forced out by his arm, Maradona sought a return for pre-season on August 16, 1989, but with the caveat that he would need to detox for the first 12 days. Napoli did not agree and Maradona went fishing with his father.

Maradona was in Argentina when Serie A began on 27 August 1989. On 2 September, he said he wanted to return but, according to Balagh, was not given a first-class ticket. Maradona arrived in Italy on 4 September and began preparing for the season with personal trainer Fernando Signorini and physician Dr. Ruben Oliva. His first game was as a substitute on 17 September at home against Fiorentina. Maradona came on when Napoli were trailing 0–2. He missed a penalty but scored two goals as Napoli won 3–2. Everything went well in no time.

Napoli started the season with a 0–1 defeat away to Ascoli, but even though their totem was away, defeats to Udinese and Verona either side of a barren draw at Cesena. After Fiorentina, Maradona played the next 20 games – unusual, given his injury problems the previous season – and went on a Napoli 12-game unbeaten run that was ended by Lazio on 30 December. They beat Milan 3–0, with Maradona setting up two first-half goals for Andrea Carnevale before scoring the third. “He went head-to-head with the goalkeeper, mistimed his shot, cut the ball over the stranded stopper, who was sprawled on the floor after buying Diego’s feint,” writes Balg.

With Napoli at the helm, Maradona married in Buenos Aires in the presence of over 1000 guests.

most famous import

Formed in 1926, Maradona was not the first famous foreign player at Napoli. Atilla Sallestro of Paraguay played for teams from the south of Italy in the 1920s and 1930s, as did Brazilians Luis Vinicio and José Altafini and Italian-Argentine Omar Sivori (1965–69) in the 1950s. But, none affected the fourth most supported club in Italy like Maradona. “In terms of football, I brought things he didn’t have: the heel flick, the dribble, the title.” (El Diego.)

More than 70,000 attended the San Paolo, renamed Diego Armando Maradona after his death in 2020, making Maradona’s arrival memorable. “Maradona take charge,” said the terraces. “If it doesn’t happen now, it will never happen…” John Foote writes in ‘Calcio’ that San Paolo had 86% of season ticket holders.

In his time at Napoli (1984–91), Maradona won two Serie A titles, the UEFA Cup and the Italian Super Cup. A team that was, in his words, closer to the second division, was catapulted to the top of European club football. In a league that featured the best players in the world – Michel Platini, Zico, Socrates, Ian Rush, Daniel Passarella, Andreas Brehme, Falcao, Juergen Klinsmann, Lothar Matthias, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten – the Serie A champions under Maradona. I played in There was – Napoli was no longer a team that heavyweights from the north would use for targeted practice.

Like the Argentine teams of the 1986 and 1990 World Cups, Napoli, coached by Alberto Bigon, who had replaced Bianchi, relied on Maradona but capable players in different areas of the pitch. Italy’s centre-back Ciro Ferreira anchored the defence, Fernando De Napoli marshalled the midfield as he did for the national team and Zola, Carnevale, Maradona and Brazilian Careca formed a formidable partnership up front. Carca turned down Real Madrid to join Napoli because he wanted to play alongside Maradona. What he says with characteristic humility in ‘Touched by God’, the story of Argentina’s World Cup triumph in 1986, can also be applied to Napoli’s last Serie A title. Maradona said that without the team we could have beaten England but could not have won the World Cup.

suffocated by love

But Maradona found Napoli’s adoration “sticky and suffocating”. Girlfriend Claudia Villafane had to buy her own clothes because Maradona could not go out without a crowd. At the ceremony following the 1987 league title, an old lady asked people to turn down the pipe. As Maradona imitated the chant of his name in the stadium and women joined in the celebrations, the mood changed. His blood sample was kept at the city’s cathedral and he required a police escort to go to training sessions. When he was on a flight that encountered turbulent weather, a passenger said, “Nothing can happen to us because God is traveling in the plane.” Maradona also said that he did not understand why people say that they love him more than their children and that he means more to them than their mother. Even now, there are murals of him in a Napoli shirt adorning buildings in the city.

He was a user before coming to Naples but this unusual life made his cocaine addiction worse with the Mafia being his friends and suppliers. Maradona used to consume alcohol to prolong his addiction. Asif Kapadia’s documentary on Maradona’s Naples years shows him playing on Sunday and partying until Wednesday, cleaning up from Thursday and playing again on Sunday.

goals galore

Nevertheless, Maradona scored 16 goals in the 1989–90 Serie A campaign, the most for his team. From 1987 to 1990 he scored 50 goals. Goals, according to Joe Foot, were rarely as sloppy as Roberto Baggio’s. Foot wrote, “chips from outside the box, perfect free-kicks, lazy dribbles… Maradona was able to provide many passes for others and he did not give up even when defenders took the knots out of his stocky legs”. “

Although Maradona was shining, Napoli’s march to the title was not without controversy. Feraleno later told ESPN that being friends with the man who appointed the referee helped him bring in Rosario Lo Bello to officiate the Milan–Verona game. Bello was close to Napoli, the club’s president said. Milan lost 1–2, Napoli beat Bologna 4–2 to set up a final day clash with Lazio.

On the final day, Sunday, Maradona entered the pitch with his girls and Claudia. Like last Sunday when Napoli hosted Salernitana, the city was ready to celebrate. Napoli’s party board a ship where two packages arrive on jet skis. The cocaine is here, said Maradona’s manager Guillermo Coppola.

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