Diego Maradona and Napoli: Football’s Wildest Romance

5 mins read

A head-spinning cocktail of devotion, chaos and unrivalled glory – plus enough class As to kill a horse. From plastic penises to cocaine in the Pope’s bathroom, this is the story Netflix won’t tell you.

Diego arrives at Napoli in 1984 after a controversial spell with Barcelona. Rumours emerge that he’s fallen in with a crowd of hard-partying coke heads. And his time at the Nou Camp ends in scandal when he knocks an opponent unconscious in the Copa Del Rey final.

But the people of Naples don’t care – they are besotted. When Diego’s transfer hits a snag, hysterical fans go on hunger strike, chaining themselves to the stadium gates. And when Barcelona demand an extra £500,000, they organise street collections to raise the cash.

But Maradona soon gets cosy with the local mafia. He is pictured in a jacuzzi with Luigi Giuliano, the Don of a powerful Cammora clan. Rumours emerge that Diego is bringing his new friends footballs stuffed with cocaine whenever he travels from Argentina.

And his own drug use is spiralling. During a visit to the Vatican in 1985, Diego snorts a line in the Pope’s private bathroom. He then rounds on the Pontiff’s half-arsed efforts to help poor kids:

“So? Sell the ceilings, mate! Do something!” he tells him.

But on the pitch, things have never been better.

In 1986, Diego wins the World Cup, and the next season leads Napoli to their first Serie A title. The city goes berserk, with street parties lasting 3 days.

A banner on the cemetery declares: “You don’t know what you’ve missed.”

Whenever he leaves the house Diego is mobbed by delirious fans, and his driver later estimates he slept with 8,000 women. Maradona’s demi-god status is sealed when he’s filmed teaching his daughter to say “Fuck Juve”. But things turn sour when he tries to join Marseille.

Diego eventually stays and Napoli wins a second title, but the city is eating him up. “Drugs were everywhere” he recalled. “They practically brought them to me on a tray. Sunday to Wednesday I was partying on cocaine.” He rigs drug tests by filling a fake penis with clean urine.

Before a UEFA Cup game against Spartak Moscow, Diego has a huge coke bender and misses his flight. So he gets a private jet, arriving at 2 am on matchday. Instead of heading to the hotel, he goes straight to Red Square and convinces guards to let him into Lenin’s mausoleum.

The following year is Italia 90, and Maradona’s Argentina faces Italy in the semi-finals. In Naples… Stoking North vs South tensions, Diego tells reporters “Naples is not Italy”. With Napoli ultras backing Argentina, Maradona scores the winning penalty in a shootout.

With their dreams of a home World Cup win in tatters, the manic Italian press turns on Diego. La Republicca runs a survey asking its readers to vote for their most hated figure in history. Up against dictators, murderers and war criminals, Maradona wins by a landslide.

But things are about to get worse. Diego is caught on tape ordering prostitutes via his mafia mates, and he’s arrested for drug possession. And more hookers reveal tales of wild cocaine-fuelled orgies. Then, after a game against Bari, Maradona is called in for a drug test.

With the authorities now wise to his plastic schlong, Diego has no choice but to hand over a sample. When the results come back, there’s enough coke in his piss to kill a polar bear. He’s banned from football for 15 months.

Realising his days as the king of Naples were over, Diego flees back to Buenos Aires in the middle of the night. But he wasn’t forgotten.

The city is plastered with murals of the Argentine star, and when he died, Napoli renamed their stadium: The Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

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