The age-old debate over who was the better player – Pele or Maradona – still divides football fans around the world. The World Cup-winning Argentine would glide past opposition with the ball seemingly glued to his feet. He’s also one of the game’s most controversial figures thanks to his infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal scored against England and wide-eyed celebration at the 1994 World Cup.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1960, one of eight kids, young Diego was given a football at the age of three, beginning his love for ‘the beautiful game’. His first club was Los Cebollitas, a youth side of Argentinos Juniors – one of the biggest clubs in the country. The sides went on an incredible 136-game unbeaten streak with Maradona in the side.
During his professional career, the midfield maestro won club titles in Argentina, Italy and Spain but it was his impact in the national side, which will be forever remembered. His two goals against England en route to World Cup glory 1986 are still talked about today. One was a moment of individual brilliance, dribbling the ball from his own half before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Peter Shilton. The other was the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal, which saw the little midfielder deliberately handle the ball into the net – which somehow went unnoticed by the officials.
In total, Maradona played in four World Cups, scoring an impressive 34 goals in 91 international appearances for Argentina. He also holds the records for captaining a side the most at the World Cup finals – leading Argentina out on 16 occasions. His 21 appearances in the finals are bettered only by three others.
He saw out his playing career in his homeland before announcing his retirement in 1997. He was appointed as the Head Coach of the Argentinean national team in 2008 and his team reached the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals but lost 4-0 to Germany. Maradona has since continued his managerial career in the UAE, most recently as the Fujairah manager. The midfielder was also awarded the Ballon d’Or in 1995 for his services to football.
Hublot signed Maradona as an official partner after the footballing genius was spotted wearing two Hublot watches at the 2010 World Cup. Speaking at the announcement he said, “More than a partnership, I feel to be part of the Hublot family. I met authentic and fantastic people who became my friends. I remember my visit last year to the manufacture in Nyon, it was like feeling almost home. The thing that drew me to Hublot was also their charity efforts. I’m very involved in my community, giving kids opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise get. Sitting down talking to the people at Hublot, everything came back to family, and that’s me. It’s a perfect relationship from that standpoint.”
Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta has signed for Japanese side Vissel Kobe after bringing the curtain down on his brilliant Barcelona career.
The 34-year-old playmaker left the Catalan giants after landing his ninth LaLiga title with the club. He also secured a host of other honours, including four Champions League triumphs.
“I am pleased to announce today that Andres Iniesta will be signing up to play with Vissel Kobe after his historic career at FC Barcelona,” the club’s owner Hiroshi Mikitani told reporters in Tokyo.
A World Cup winner with Spain in 2010, Iniesta captained Barcelona during his final three seasons at the club.
Vissel Kobe, coached by Takayuki Yoshida, sit sixth in the Japanese top flight after 15 games of their season, already 15 points behind runaway leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Diego Maradona has promised that Emirati players will follow him to Dynamo Brest, saying the club’s fans shouldn’t be ‘surprised’ if three footballers from the Emirates join the Belarusian side ‘tomorrow’.
The 1986 World Cup winner was officially unveiled as the club’s new chairman on a three-year deal just weeks after leaving his position as Fujairah coach, following their failure to secure automatic promotion to the Arabian Gulf League.
It was his second coaching stint in the UAE following a dismal spell in charge of Al Wasl where he was sacked after 14 months in 2012.
And after seeing enough talent during his stay in the UAE, the long-term Dubai resident insists there’s a strong possibility that players from the country could also make the switch to Eastern European nation Belarus.
“Whether they are Emirati, Italian or Spanish, I have a lot of love for the players that I have coached, so don’t be surprised if tomorrow we have three Emirati players in my team,” the 57-year-old told media at the Emirates Palace hotel late on Tuesday night. “Because all the work my boys at Fujairah have done they conquered my heart and this is a lot.
“When we went to Holland we were a random group, like a high school group, but when we came back to Fujairah we came with an idea of how we wanted to play football. That’s why I’m not afraid of the challenge and of this challenge. Definitely I will take Emirati players.”
The former Barcelona and Napoli star was unable to deliver automatic promotion for the Wolves, who later booked their spot in the AGL via the play-offs. And while he criticised the club for the manner in which they announced his exit, Fujairah and the UAE will always be in his heart.
“I was kicked from Al Wasl because of a tweet. And from Fujairah the same thing happened – because of a tweet they sent me home,” he said.
“I want to congratulate my boys at Fujairah and not anyone else. We fought hard and they wanted to be in the Arabian Gulf League. I have encountered many good memories. I travelled 150km to go from my home to Fujairah and back again to go home every day and the boys of Fujairah are in my heart always.”
While Maradona insisted he will always consider himself an “Emirati citizen”, he also paid tribute to the UAE and hoped he could one day work with Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.
“It has been a beautiful and long journey that I have experienced in this country and the people with whom I have shared deep love and appreciation. I see that they have greatly influenced my career both in terms of sport and social life,” he said.
“A very important point I would like to stress on is the vision of HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed with Manchester City. They have become a world power in football. I wish, someday, I co-operate with HH Sheikh Mansour.”
The ex-Argentina coach will begin his new role with Dynamo Brest after the World Cup in the summer and will be tasked in making the side a competitive force in Belarus and Europe. Among his duties will be dealing with first-team matters and the club’s development.
After eight games of the 2018 season, the club lie eighth in the Belarusian league but last week won the Belarus Cup that booked them a place in the qualifying round of the Europa League.
Maradona will analyse the first-team squad before deciding whether to enter the transfer market for reinforcements.
“First of all, we need to see what I’m lacking in the team,” he added. “Once I will see the players on the pitch, from there I will take my conclusions and in which positions I will need a player.”