Diego Maradona, the footballing icon who played for clubs such as Barcelona, Napoli and Boca Juniors, as well as the scorer of the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in 1986, nearly left a different football legacy altogether had things turned out differently…
Here’s the story of how Diego Maradona nearly joined Sunderland…
HOW MARADONA NEARLY JOINED THE BLACK CATS >>
Image credit: Ian Smith
Can you just imagine if Maradona had actually moved to Roker Park back in the 70s?
Rumour has it that Diego Maradona was keen on securing a transfer to Jimmy Adamson’s second division side back in the summer of 1977.
Sunderland had just been relegated from the First Division following a disappointing season in which they had finished on just 34 points.
As the club began their preparations for the new season, Adamson and his staff began scouting for the next raft of reinforcements to help propel them back into the premier division.
With local and national talent being secured by the big guns of the top flight, SAFC they set their sights on South America and the raft of Football talent starting to emerge on the pitch.
Little did they know, they had actually set their sights on a 17-year-old Diego Maradona at Argentinos Juniors.
Diego’s biographer, Daniel Arcucci, explains >>
“Diego said, ‘If they don’t sell me to Sunderland, I’m retiring’.
But at that time, we didn’t have a democratic government, and they declared him untransferable, one of a group of players were who untransferable.”
Diego’s dream move to Wearside was over. Unfortunately for us Mackems, Maradona remained in his homeland for the time being, perfecting his skills with Boca Juniors before eventually moving to European giants Barcelona in 1982 for a then world-record fee of £5m.
Ex-Sunderland manager, Peter Reid, paid tribute to Diego Maradona yesterday after speaking with BBC Radio 5 Live >>
Reid was part of the England side which lost to a Maradona brace in the 1986 World Cup.
“We opted not to man-mark him, thank God I wasn’t given that job. Belgium tried it in the semi-final with Eric Gerets, who was a great player, and he still tore them apart.
“He was one of those players, whatever way you went about, if he was playing well on the day he was very, very difficult to stop.”
Speaking about the second goal, Reid added: “With his balance and his strength he just went through us. It was just one of those things you can’t stop.
“I get asked ‘why didn’t you bring him down?’ and rest assured if I could have got there….I wake up in a cold sweat still thinking about it, and I still can’t get there.”
Maradona was the first player in football history to set the world record transfer fee twice when he switch from Boca Juniors to Barcelona for a then-world record £5 million, and secondly, when he transferred to Napoli for another record fee £6.9 million.
He played for the likes of Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell’s Old Boys during his club career, and is most famous for his time at Napoli and Barcelona where he won numerous accolades.
An icon both on and off the pitch, Maradona will be remembered as one the greatest ever players. RIP.