Diego Maradona is one of the more polarized figures in football history. A man that held a legendary status in some parts of his career and is absolutely despised for others.
The man had it made as the best player in football at the time (some argue ever) and at one point he was wrongly considered a god in Naples. But the Argentine was at his lowest at Sevilla, a stint that most forget and Maradona truly can’t remember.
Maradona’s seven-year stay at Napoli ended in 1992 following the 1990 Italian World Cup where the legend had Italians cheering against their own country- absolutely mad. Like most fairytales, Maradona’s stay at the club came to an abrupt end with positive tests for cocaine and countless other press worthy events following the heartbreaking dismissal from the World Cup. The positive tests led to a 15-month suspension from FIFA and it makes Luis Suarez’s little debacle look harmless in comparison.
Where was Maradona to go following the suspension? He was still undeniably one of the best in the world, but was coming off of cocaine, a 15-month suspension, and was seeking to reinvent himself with a new club.
Despite wanting to go elsewhere and Napoli not wanting to let go of the good times, Maradona settled on Sevilla as the next club to carry the ego of the Argentinean maestro. But what was supposed to be something of magic and a resurgence for Maradona took a turn for the worst. The fine start of the 1992/93 La Liga season was soon forgotten as Maradona believed he was bigger than the club, a privilege he was given at Napoli.
Despite the early successes, Sevilla wasn’t willing to put up with the antics of the now-overweight and egotistical Maradona. Much like the crash Diego Maradona was feeling from the cocaine, the skilful 10 was experiencing the same fall from his high on the field. The Argentine was pushed off the pedestal by the club and Sevilla stood its ground in their fight against an ageing and flailing star despite the desire to get the best out of him.
Sevilla was managed at the time by Carlos Bilardo, an Argentine who was known for his hard nosed approach to playing and managerial style that wasn’t appealing to the common football fan. Bilardo had hoped to get the best out of Diego Maradona by building the team around the cocaine enthusiast and that was his mistake.
He tried to make Maradona as successful as possible within the formation given his fitness levels and struggles with weight gain. The formerly working relationship turned sour and eventually led to the pair coming to blows (no, not cocaine). As Maradona put it, “We kicked the sh*t out of each other.”
The fight ended Diego Maradona’s time in Spain; the Argentine left Sevilla after a single season and that time will forever be a blemish on the career of Maradona. The Argentine was a more modern George Best with his drug use and trips to brothels, but his time at Sevilla will be the time that he would want to forget most. Sevilla didn’t bend and give into Maradona’s desire to be a god like at Napoli and as a result they struggled to get the best from the overweight Diego Maradona.