Diego Armando Maradona, even his name evokes the imagination of soccer fans the world over – and with good cause; the legendary Argentina player was one of the most extraordinary players of all time.
Flawed, generous, damaged, and genuinely gifted, Diego Maradona sits on a pedestal with, at best, three other players; he is one of the greatest soccer players of all time.
Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to question his ability to do the incredible with a soccer ball. There’s even a YouTube clip of Maradona warming up on the pitch before a game, and he’s mesmerizing, and all Maradona does in the clip is dance on the spot with the ball.
Whether it’s for his time at Barcelona or Napoli or even just for his World Cup exploits, Maradona often conjures up at least one memory for soccer fans.
From his “Hand of God” goal against England to his insanely good goal in the same game, where he takes on the entire team, Maradona was an enigma.
Part genius, part ruthless villain, it’s what makes him memorable. You didn’t know what he would do next, nor did his opponent. It wouldn’t surprise us if Maradona didn’t know what he was going to do next either; he was an instinctive player with the talent to do what he wanted with the ball.
Today we’re going to look back on five of the best seasons in the legendary Argentine’s career.
Despite several lows, where injury, suspension, or his issues with substance abuse meant Maradona couldn’t play, the highs were higher than high.
Read on to see how the genius that was Diego Armando Maradona carried his clubs, and at times his country, on to spectacular seasons.
5. 1981/1982 Season – Maradona’s Title With Boca Juniors
After five excellent years playing for Argentinos Juniors, where the young yet precocious Maradona had scored 115 goals in 167 appearances, it was inevitable that bigger teams would start to take interest.
In the end, it was Buenos Aires giants Boca Juniors who paid a staggering *at that time) $4 million for Diego Maradona.
And the move couldn’t have gone any better, with Diego scoring two goals on his debut and finishing the season with 29 goals in just 42 appearances.
It was to be a superb first and last season with Boca, as the club went on to lift the league title. Maradona had been a revelation in the league and cemented himself as a crowd favorite.
With higher status comes higher expectations, and as Maradona seemed to take every challenge in his stride, it was little wonder that, yet again, even bigger clubs, this time from Europe, would start to take serious notice of the young Argentine.
It turned out that Maradona’s superb, title-winning season with Boca Juniors would also be his last season with the club.
After an incredible 1981-82 season, Maradona would find himself heading to Spain and Barcelona, where the future superstar soccer player would find his next season even more incredible than the last.
4. 1982/1983 Season – Domestic Cup Success With Barcelona
Having the tag “World’s most expensive soccer player” can sometimes put so much pressure on players that they can’t perform to their usual standards.
When Maradona joined Barcelona for a world record fee in 1982, and after moving from Argentina to Spain, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the Argentine might take some time to acclimatize.
What actually happened was Maradona scored 38 goals in 58 games, and while his time at Barcelona may not have always been harmonious, Maradona took La Liga by storm.
Scoring in El Clasico, arguably the biggest game in world soccer, Maradona was so good that even the Real Madrid fans applauded his performance.
In his two seasons at the club, Maradona had hepatitis, and then serious injuries curtailed much of his time with the club. Despite that, in 1983, Barcelona, with a fit Maradona, was a superb team, winning the Copa del Rey, the Copa de la Liga, and the Supercopa de Espana.
Despite not winning the league, Maradona had an excellent season, though, in 1983, he suffered a horrific broken ankle during a game between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao after being violently tackled by Andoni Goikoetxea.
The injury could have been career-threatening, but thankfully Maradona was back in training a mere three months later.
It was against Athletic Bilbao and his old adversary Andoni Goikoetxea, that finally cost Maradona a place in La Liga when, in the 1984 Copa del Rey final, Andoni Goikoetxea spent the entire game kicking and verbally abusing Maradona.
At full-time, Maradona snapped, headbutting an opponent. He then kneed another in the head, knocking him out cold.
A full-scale brawl then erupted as both teams sought retribution, and all of this happened on live TV, where half of Spain was believed to be watching.
It also happened in front of an audience of 100,000 fans, including the King of Spain, who was far from amused. It was the death knell for Maradona, and the club quickly sold him to Napoli for a tidy profit.
3. 1989/1990 Season – The Second Scudetto
Diego Maradona became a legend at Napoli, becoming an almost god-like figure for the fans of t, the Neapolitan club.
After winning their first-ever Serie A title in 1987, the club was consistently excellent for the next few seasons. By the 1989-1990 season, Maradona’s form was incredible, and he would lead the club to their second league title.
Scoring 16 goals in the league, the third highest goalscorer that season, Maradona led Napoli in every sense; when the Argentinian played well, Napoli won games. It’s hard to imagine a team so reliant on one player, and even more incredible that Maradona managed to play soccer at all.
Opponents knew that to stop Maradona was to stop Napoli, and he was kicked and fouled mercilessly in every game.
Despite that, Maradona refused to be beaten and led Napoli to only their second Scudetto. It’s a telling statistic that the club hasn’t won the league since then, over thirty years later.
The 1989-1990 season would also see Napoli lift the Supercoppa Italiano, giving the club an unprecedented double for the year. Beating AC Milan into the top spot by two points, Naples went wild for weeks, with the already beloved Maradona becoming the greatest player in the club’s history.
Years later, after passing away at the age of 60, Napoli renamed their stadium the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in tribute to their legendary player.
With the possible exceptions of Lionel Messi and Johan Cruyff, there’s never been a player so intertwined with one club, and it’s not unreasonable to say Maradona is as loved in Naples today as he was in 1990.
2. 1985/1986 Season – Argentina Win The World Cup
There are no more passionate soccer fans on earth than those from South America; soccer is all-encompassing, with the national team being the most important thing in a soccer fan’s life.
For Argentina, 1986 was a truly incredible year, with the Mexico World Cup being the pinnacle of that year’s sporting calendar.
For Maradona, the tournament cemented his place amongst the greatest players ever, as he led Argentina to victory over West Germany. It had already been an excellent tournament for Maradona, as he had sometimes dragged Argentina forward through sheer willpower and skill.
The semi-final against England remains one of the most incredible World Cup games ever, with Maradona at the heart of everything Argentina did, good or bad.
His first goal against England has gone down in history as one of the most blatant examples of cheating ever seen. Now known as the “Hand of God” goal, Maradona, at 1.65m tall, tried to outjump giant England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and used his outstretched arm to punch the ball into the net.
The pre-VAR world of 1986 meant everyone but the referee saw the blatant foul, and the goal stood. Soon after, the great part of Maradona was also seen, as he took the ball past the entire England team before slotting in the greatest World Cup goal of all time.
A Jekyll and Hyde character at times, Maradona’s place in history was assured days later as he lifted the World Cup.
1. 1986/1987 Season – Napoli Win The Serie A
Maradona’s arrival in Naples was met with such incredible excitement that over 75,000 fans turned up just to see the player’s presentation ceremony in 1984.
A mere three seasons later, Napoli would lift their first-ever Serie A trophy, and it was primarily down to the incredible presence of Diego Maradona that it happened.
A mid-table club at best, Napoli hadn’t looked anywhere near good enough to win a Scudetto, but the arrival of Maradona changed everything. The team found self-belief and, led by their talismanic attacking midfielder, quickly started to climb the league.
By the start of the 1986 season, Napoli had a team capable of competing, although winning the league seemed impossible.
Yet that’s precisely what happened; after 30 games, Napoli was top of the league, finishing on 42 points, three points ahead of Juventus. Maradona’s contribution throughout the season was enormous, with the playmaker scoring a quarter of the club’s goals.
It wasn’t just his goals and assists that made Maradona the standout player in the Napoli team; his performances throughout the season were mesmerizing, making his teammates raise their games to try and keep up.
The 1986-87 title-winning season for Napoli is one of the most exciting results in Serie A history, and Diego Armando Maradona made it happen.
I listed the best seasons of some other all-time greats in these articles: