40 years since the signing of Diego Armando Maradona

40 years since the signing of Diego Armando Maradona

This Saturday 4 June marks 40 years since FC Barcelona signed none other than Diego Armando Maradona, considered one of the best players in the history of football. The transfer was made official just before the start of the 1982 Spain World Cup which began just a few days later with the inaugural match at Camp Nou.

Maradona was never just ‘another player’. Even his signing reflected his unique nature. When a player comes to one of the FC Barcelona professional teams, a documentary file is created, which once it is no longer active, becomes part of the Club’s archives at the Centre for Documentation and Study. The file for Maradona was unusual in several respects.

A unique archive
Maradona’s file is unusual in that it contains documentation from the time prior to his arrival. The archive contains first hand, undisputed information about the player and his links to Barça and the Club’s information was supplemented by the donation of material by Antoni Muntanyola i Tey, former secretary to the Board of Directors at the time. The first document in the archive dates back to 17 August 1978.

The Club sent former player César Rodríguez to see the 17 year old Maradona in action for Argentinos Juniors and later in 1979 Francesc Rodríguez ‘Rodri’ also travelled to South America to see the new star in the flesh. Both scouting reports spoke very highly of the young Argentinian and the Club reached out and came to an agreement with Argentinos Juniors for Maradona to join Barça at the start of the 1980/81 season.

However, the path to Maradona was strewn with obstacles. The Military Junta that ruled Argentina at the time intervened and prevented the young star from leaving the country which led to him signing for Boca Juniors in a complex deal involving Argentinos Juniors and Barça, who had managed to secure Diego’s signature for the 1982/83 season.

All the documentation regarding the complex manoeuvres surrounding Maradona’s transfer are contained in the file, including the agreements with Argentinos Juniors and Boca Juniors and documentation from the Argentinian Football Federation.

Finally, on 4 June 1982, Maradona signed for FC Barcelona. The signing of the contract was front page news and the player himself declared in front the gathered media: “I am joining the club very happily and I will do everything to bring as many trophies as possible to the best club in the world, FC Barcelona.”

Unlucky in Barcelona
Unfortunately, Maradona’s stay at Barça was marred by ill fortune. Illness and a fractured ankle thanks to an infamous challenged from Athletic Bilbao defender Goikoetxea meant he appearances in blaugrana were not as numerous as had been hoped. Nevertheless, Maradona still scored 45 goals in 73 appearances for the Club and helped them to the Copa del Rey, the League Cup and Spanish Super Cup during his spell in blaugrana. A deteriorating relationship with the Club’s hierarchy meant the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Club in 1984 was his last game for Barça before heading to Italy to sign for Napoli.

Success with Napoli and Argentina
In Naples he helped resuscitate Napoli’s fortunes, leading them to two Serie A titles, a Coppa Italia and a UEFA Cup. With the Argentine national side success came in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico with a victory over West Germany in the final. Earlier in the tournament Maradona scored two of his most famous goals against England in the quarter-finals, the first the legendary ‘Hand of God’ strike and the second a brilliant solo effort.

Four years later Maradona led Argentina to the runners-up spot in the World Cup in Italy. Drug bans curtailed his later years and a comeback at the 1994 World Cup in the USA before he finally ended his career with Boca Juniors in 1997.

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