The Perfect 10

Along with everything else, he was the best passer of a ball.

“I love the way he taps the ball with his toes.” A lovesick elderly female fan of Napoli from the video Napoli Corner.

The life and career of Diego Maradona for all its successes has been nothing more than tragic. And a waste. A waste in that most footballing connoisseurs lay claim that the little Argentinian would play second fiddle to his, albeit excellent counterpart, Pele. In my eyes that have seen the glory of Diego in his pomp, there is no contest.

The mighty You Tube has hundreds, nay millions, of recordings of Maradona caressing the ball in open play, dribbling effortlessly past bemused defenders and finding the killer pass or fatal goal. He was an expert on just about any situation that develops on the field. Criminally, as he himself confessed on a recent documentary, cocaine addiction ruined him and stopped him from becoming a better player. This statement is one of the saddest I’ve ever heard. A better Maradona. How good would he have been? For one thing, it would have put to bed the debate over the Greatest. For another, it has robbed us of a Miracle.

Winning the World Cup in 1986 was his greatest triumph. Completely single-handedly he destroyed some of the finest footballers of his era. Before the English deride my use of words and accuse this Northerner of gleeful merriment, unequivocally I can state that England team was one of my favourites. Indeed, six members of the 22 man squad went on to play for the real Queen’s X1.

After retiring, the rollercoaster and controversial Diego life mirrored his playing career with its scandals and awards. His dodgy tattoos and political rantings against satanic America par for the course for one who has roots in semi-literate Latin America; all the while picking up Best Player Ever prizes “posthumously” in various polls. Health problems didn’t stop him managing the Argentine national team to the last World Cup. A naïve coach, he tried to make his side play attractive football. After all, he wasn’t a Dunga.

Whatever the future brings for the little maestro, one thing’s for sure, it won’t be dull. I wish him happiness as underneath all his foibles he seems a loyal kind of person and they’re the best kind. The documentary also threw up Diego as a would be X-factor contestant chanting a catchy wee terracing song. There’s a video with subtitles but I prefer to listen to the flow and nuances of his Spanish accent. I must admit he kicked a ball better than me, though at karaoke singing he rates an 8 out of 10; I’m a 10, naturally.

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