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The Forgotten Season of Diego Maradona

When we think of Diego Maradona, we think of him as the World Champion with Argentina, as the God of Naples, or for his stint with Barcelona in the baggy retro jersey fighting with players. 

While all of this did make him a legend, there is one season neglected by many football fans. This is the story of Diego Maradona in Seville. 

Diego Maradona is Seville  

Diego Maradona’s time in Seville is often regarded as forgettable and when you look at Sevilla’s performance that season you can understand why, Sevilla did not win any trophies that season. 

Even though there was no glory, Maradona’s arrival in Seville brought hope. Sevilla hadn’t won a trophy for almost 50 years and the club failed to finish in the top 4 for 20 years. 

Maradona won the Scudetto with Napoli when they were going through a similar situation and Sevilla had appointed Carlos Salvador Bilardo who had managed the 1986 World Cup-winning Argentina team. With Maradona and Bilardo, Sevilla fans were looking forward to a glorious chapter in the club’s history. 

Maradona’s time in Sevilla is one of Comebacks, footballing trickery, private detectives, public partying all of this drama in just one year. 

The Arrival

In the summer of 1992, Sevilla FC appointed Carlos Salvador Bilardo as their new coach, even during the 90’s Real Madrid and Barcelona used to be the top 2 names in terms of title favourites. But Bilardo arrived in Seville with a plan, he was going to sign Diego Armando Maradona. 

The Argentine magician with whom Bilardo had won the 1986 FIFA World Cup was serving a 15-month ban from football for drug use and thus signing him was complicated. 

When the Sevilla board explained the complications in signing Maradona to Bilardo, he simply said if you don’t give me Maradona I’ll leave. So the negotiations between the player and the clubs began.  

Sevilla’s initial bid of £2.5 million was rejected by Napoli president Corrado Ferliano because even after Maradona was banned he was still regarded as the God of Naples. Finally after intervention from FIFA and a second bid of £4.5 million the deal happened. 

FIFA wanted the face of football to be back at his best before the 1994 FIFA World Cup and thus a five-hour meeting was held at the FIFA headquarters to help strike the deal. 

The move was financed by Silvio Berlusconi’s media company on a guarantee that Maradona’s Sevilla would play friendlies across the globe and Berlusconi’s company would telecast it. Finally, in late September Diego Maradona arrived in Sevilla. 

The Beginning 

Diego Maradona’s arrival had an instant impact among fans, Sevilla’s membership rose from 26,000 members to 40,000 members and they earned £2 million form ticket sales. 

Maradona made his debut in a starstudded friendly against Bayern Munich where he showed his class and Sevilla won the game 3-1.

Ever since Maradona’s arrival, all the media hype was around Sevilla, journalists from all around the world came to cover Sevilla’s matches. Sevilla were doing tours in Brazil, Turkey, and even in Buenos Aires where Maradona faced his boyhood club Boca Juniors. 

When Maradona was due to arrive in Seville Bilardo had explained to his player what life would be like with Maradona. He and they were in the background now. This was the Maradona show but if they put their faith in his genius then this wild ride could lead somewhere special. Nobody was about to argue.

Manolo Jimenez who was the captain of Sevilla gave up his armband to Maradona because no one could see Maradona play without the armband. 

The Debut: 

Diego Maradona was very excited for his return to football he had even replicated his hairstyle from the 1986 world cup to show his commitment to the new endevour. 

Maradona made his La Liga debut against Real Zaragosa where he scored the winning penalty for Sevilla but he was struggling to find consistency due to his absence from the game for such a long time but the class was still there. 

Maradona had picked up pace around December and he showed his class in a 2-0 victory against Real Madrid. Sevilla were sitting in the top half of the La Liga table midway through the season. 

Aflio Basile the manager of Argentina could no longer ignore Diego Maradona and was called up for the national team after 2 years. 

The Fall

Diego Maradona was called up by Argentina for a few friendly games but Sevilla were less keen. Games in La Liga would continue and he was needed by his club for a match against Logrones. But Maradona wasn’t going to ignore the opportunity to represent his nation after 2 years so he left without the club’s permission. 

The Relationship between Maradona and the Club took a downturn after this point and it never recovered. 

Maradona returned to the club overweight, he became less frequent in training his performance wasn’t the same so Sevilla started plotting their exit strategy. There were rumors that Sevilla had hired a private detective to keep track of Maradona’s movement so that they wouldn’t have to pay him his wages. 

Maradona was caught overspeeding in his Porsche by the police, and it was all going downhill. 

The final nail in the coffin came when Bilardo substituted Maradona early in the second half against Burgos in a 1-1 draw. Maradona never played for Sevilla again leaving the town on June 23, 1993, with the team having finished an underwhelming seventh and outside of the European places. 

Maradona even sued Sevilla because of the unpaid money that he felt he was owed in his contract. It was a bitter end to his journey in Seville. 

Conclusion

Diego Maradona only played 26 games for Sevilla and only managed to score 5 goals he could not lead Sevilla to any silverware but he did earn himself a place in the Argentina squad for the 1994 World Cup which was his 4th. 

Even though Maradona’s Sevilla journey was not filled with goals or trophies, it was quite memorable for Sevilla fans. As his former teammate Rafa Paz said the team won nothing, but just playing alongside Diego Maradona was a trophy in itself. 

What do you think?

Written by TackleFromBehind

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