Maradona, the incredible story of his months at Newell’s

The 5 crazy months of Diez in maglia del Newell’s Old Boys.

Of the many qualities you attribute to Diego Armando Maradonathe most surprising of all – in my opinion – is a supernatural ability to dilate and play over time. Without checking the Wikipedia page, almost no one would be able to say how long Maradona played on professional playing fields: for many, Maradona’s career was a flash that revolutionized football, not just the kind played; for many others, the twenty years in which The ten has manifested its greatness on the meadows of half the world, they have been a defining stage of life in which one can take refuge every now and then, trying to rewind time.

Even for those who didn’t experience him, Maradona represented a predominant part of life – at least in football – for the simple fact of being so all-encompassing and so more of others: more strong of all but also more fragile; The more divine but also the more allegedly; capable of going where no athlete had ever thought of going but also chained to his natural fallibility; so perfect on the pitch and fragile off it, therefore so deserving of our admiration expressed, as the spotlight fades, in affection and compassion. For this game of contrasts Maradona is also a perfect litmus test for understanding Argentina and its contradictions: it is no coincidence that when he decides to return to his homeland, in 1993, he chooses Rosario, a city steeped in symbols of argentinity.

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Maradona lived the early nineties on a roller coaster: from being God and idol for a city to which he had just delivered his second scudetto to an enemy, while that same city whistled the Argentine anthem to Italia 90; after touching – again – the sky with his finger, he falls into the abyss of the 15-month disqualification that FIFA imposes after finding him positive for cocaine. He is marked, in body and spirit, by trials, often self-imposed, which call him to prove himself more great footballer in the world even if the man is always falling more down. After 1 year and 3 months Maradona wants to start again from a square “against”, in the most positive sense of the term: Seville.

The ten he was always perfect when he had to side with David rather than Goliath. With the exception of Boca, Maradona has consecrated himself to legend by always starting as an outsider: Argentinos Juniors, Napoli and the National team, where he won with one of the worst teams that can be remembered. The Sevillewhich is also the first team in the city – the Betis he’s in Segunda – he’s perfect: he’s even coached by Carlos Bilardo, who with Maradona had won in Mexico six years earlier. The Nose pushes Diego to choose the Andalusian city, but it will also be the main reason why The ten he leaves her after just one season.

The straw that breaks the camel’s back is the match against Burgos: Bilardo asks Maradona to infiltrate in order to play all 90 minutes but replaces him before the end. Diego throws the band to the ground and screams as he comes out “The whore who gave birth to you”: after a brief stop in the changing rooms, he leaves the stadium even before the match ends. Maradona – left without a team – must, for the umpteenth time, reinvent himself.

As in a Greek poem, the disgraced hero manages to get back up again thanks to a good dose of luck and a favorable historical moment. Maradona leaves Spain with the start of qualifying for the World Cup which would be played the following year in the United States. The national team, in the hands of Alfio Basile, is trying to rethink itself through a drastic generational change. L’albiceleste has no problems with its group opponents – at the time the South American national teams were divided into two groups – but loses in both matches against Colombia. If the 2-1 in Barranquilla could have been acceptable, the result at Monumental was catastrophic: a 5-0 for the Colombians that humiliated Argentina and nailed it with all its mediocrity. Maradona is in the stands and the fans, as the minutes pass, increase in chants dedicated to him.

Argentina is condemned to play-off purgatory against Australia. TO Julio Grondonapresident of the AFA, comes the stroke of genius: bringing Maradona back to the Argentine championship, to give him the chance to reach the play-offs – and then the World Cup – in the best possible conditions.

Grondona isn’t actually the first to think about repruning Diego at home: he was anticipated by Carlos Vicente Avila e Luis Nofalfounders of the television station Tournament and Competitions. The two entrepreneurs plan to invest massively to guarantee a contract for Maradona with Argentinos Juniors, who in that season were “relocated” to Mendoza to attract television audiences frominterior. The potential of the operation is mammoth for Argentine football: two other teams are entering to snatch Maradona from Animal: San Lorenzo – who doesn’t have a chance – and Newell’s Old Boys.

The Leprosy at that time it is chaired by Walter Cattaneo who, like Grondona, thinks that the Argentine championship – in particular Rosario – is the right place to get Diego back on track in view of the world championships. With Ricardo Giusti, coach Jorge “Indio” Solari he rushes to Diego’s house in Buenos Aires, where he is expected by the prosecutor Carlos Franchi who is waiting for him to sign the contract. Cattaneo doesn’t have the money needed to afford Maradona but he has his word with Avila and Nofal: the two would be willing to divert their investment from Argentinos to Newell’s.

Diego arrives in Rosario on a private plane, wearing a light blue suit and a multicolored shirt, tanned and with short hair. Cattaneo welcomes him, hands him a bouquet of flowers and points out the fans climbing onto the roof. “Diego! Diego!”, the deafening background. However, Maradona’s first few hours reveal the city’s and the team’s unpreparedness to welcome – and subsequently live with – such a media-intensive phenomenon.

On the day of the presentation the city is completely paralyzed, some schools even close early, the stadium is overflowing with people. As at the airport, some fans climbed up onto the roof and pylons to witness what seemed unthinkable until two weeks earlier.

Diego appears on the pitch in impeccable form, wearing the training uniform – sweatshirt, shorts, socks and black Pumas. For the next hour he glues the gaze of the 10,000 on him, returning that mixture of talent, charisma and class. Once the training is over, the actual presentation can take place. First problem: Newell’s does not have a building large enough to accommodate all the accredited journalists who, therefore, are crammed into the club’s gym. Maradona and Cattaneo ratify the pact that was signed in Buenos Aires, Diego can finally wear the Newell’s shirt. He takes off the shirt he wore on the plane and puts on the red and black shirt Ñul, smiling at the photographers and turning his back to show the number. The tenObviously.

The first match is a friendly match withEmelec. The pre-match is the real reception of the hero who returns to his homeland. Maradona takes the field – covered with red and black flags – with Dalma and Giannina by the hand: he seems to rewind the tape to about ten years earlier, when he had captured an internal stadium by saying a few words and doing a few dribbles. He seems to have returned to Naples, perhaps he also really thinks he can still be as decisive as in 1984. In these moments he feels invincible: he moves very well throughout the entire attacking front and often asks for the ball, by making him move you have the feeling that he is made of foam, he is so elusive for the opponents and light in touching the ball.

In the 67th minute he starts diagonally, cuts across the field and, having reached the edge of the area, he plays with a right-footed shot, not even too powerful, with an effect that catches the goalkeeper off guard for 1-0 (it will be the final result, ndr). It will be his only goal with the shirt of Leprosy but, in that moment, many have the feeling that it could be the baptism of the new life, the umpteenth, of Diez. Among these, also a young Leo Messi, who observes everything from the central stand.

Diego immediately throws himself into the fray of the Argentine championship. The start gives us hope: despite the 3-1 defeat suffered in Avellaneda againstIndependent – coached by his former partner Miguel Brindisi – Diego makes an assist and comes close to a sensational goal from rabona, kicking without an angle from the back line, and is acclaimed man of the match. In this first outing it becomes clear what the great misunderstanding is that affects Maradona’s seven matches in the shirt Zero.

Unlike what happened in Naples and in the national team, where Diego is a force that manages to exalt an often mediocre group, here his presence seems to have the opposite effect. As if, after his arrival, the group – good and compact – disappeared, dissolving into thin air. Diego therefore no longer finds himself being the entity capable of making up for collective shortcomings with talent but having to form a group on his own. Maradona is Still Maradona, only the whole context around it is missing.

In such a situation, Solari is the one who pays the price, replaced with Jorge Castelli, former coach of San Lorenzo who had opposed Maradona’s arrival in Boedo and then called by the club’s top management to modernize the squad. The differences between Castelli – obsessive in physical preparation – and Maradona – who does not make discipline his cup of tea mate – are irreconcilable: the breakup occurred immediately after the friendly match with Vasco Da Gama in January 1994.

Early February Maradona deserts training and disappears for a few days, to then magically reappear in a villa in Moreno (in the province of Buenos Aires) from where he will shoot, with a compressed air gun, some journalists who are bothering him. Cattaneo, having learned of the desertion and the news, decided to unilaterally terminate the contract and cancel the 10 friendlies guaranteed to the sponsors, breaking the Rossoneri dream after just five months.

Maradona has never made any statements regarding how his story with Newell’s ended. Many claim that he abandoned the Leprosy once he realized that he would have to, once again, shield himself from everyone’s problems, sacrifice himself for a cause that he didn’t feel was his. Yet, he will never regret having played so few games in Rosario. As he would have argued in an interview with Newell’s official TV: “With one woman you can spend twenty hours without anything happening, with another twenty minutes and experience everything possible.”

2023-11-25 12:00:00
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