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Diego Maradona’s distinguished, controversial World Cup legacy

Diego Maradona's World Cup Legacy

Diego Armando Maradona’s legacy at the World Cup distinguishes him as a legend of the game. He also had a strong club career revolutionizing the game with his dribbling.

The Argentine scored 81 goals for Napoli. He fulfilled the expectation set out for him upon his arrival. In 1984, hundreds of thousands came out to the Stadio San Paolo for his arrival at the club. He arrived as a godsend and the soon-to-be hero of Napoli.

In 1986, Diego Maradona led Napoli to its first Serie A Championship. Yet, 1986 proved to be much more significant for La Pelusa (The Fuzz). That summer, the Napoli man led Argentina to its second World Cup title. He scored the best goal and the most famous goal of his career, although these are two separate moments.

The infamous ‘hand of God’ goal against England in the quarterfinals came just six minutes into the second half. Four minutes later, Maradona dismantled England’s defense to make it 2-0 in the ‘Goal of the Century.’ Evasively in a press conference after that game, Maradona broke down the infamous opening goal.

“A little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.”

It wasn’t until 2005 that a TV show beseeched him to admit the eternal verity of cheating. Maradona confessed he used his hand with intent. Naturally, this admission sparked outrage in sports.

That same tournament, Maradona scored against Italy, the nation where he played his club soccer. Many Italians, especially in Naples, were unsure of who to support: their native country, or the best player in the world who represents their club.

Diego Maradona’s World Cup legacy

The ‘hand of God’ goal is one eyebrow-raiser. However, fluke goals happen, even at the biggest stage. It is a famous moment in the history of the sport, despite the international fiasco that happened as a result.

Moreover, during World Cup USA 1994, Maradona failed  a drug test for ephedrine doping. His failed drug test for the energy-enhancing stimulant resulted in an immediate dismissal from the tournament. Maradona’s exit reduced Argentina’s chances of reaching the Final to practically zero. Instead, Argentina’s biggest rival, Brazil, won its fourth World Cup trophy.

Perhaps, it’s not a consensus, but unanimous, when we mention Maradona’s name among the list of soccer elite. Maradona leaves behind a luminary fable intermixed with contamination and corruption. The asterisk next to his name purports to the provocative legacy he left behind.

Holistic career

There’s no doubt that the attacking midfielder had a scandalous, drug-addled career. It’s a miracle that the ‘hand of God’ in conjunction with getting kicked out for using performance-enhancing drugs did not tarnish the reputation Maradona would have with fans. Despite his complications off the field, Argentina and Napoli supporters adore the memory of Diego Maradona. However, Diego Maradona’s World Cup legacy leaves complication for his contemporary prodigy, Lionel Messi. Messi may have the better statistics, but many Argentina fans will not consider him on the same walk as Maradona until he brings the World Cup back to Argentina.

Physically, Maradona never appeared like a superior athlete. On the contrary, his stout physiology made him appear whimsical in conjunction with a fuzzy afro. Zinedine Zidane, who burst onto the world scene during Maradona’s twilight, watched El Barrilete Cósmico (the cosmic kite) as a teenager.

“He was on another level.”

With eight goals over his four World Cup appearances, Maradona is unquestionably on the ‘Mount Rushmore’ of soccer talents at the biggest competition. Diego Maradona’s legacy at the World Cup is something that generations will remember. He was, and still is, the idol of many Argentina fans. However, Messi will look to usurp his compatriot as his nation’s historical icon at his last World Cup in Qatar.

Photo: Archivo El Grafico/Getty Images

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