Remembering When Diego Maradona Played For Spurs

Remembering When Diego Maradona Played For Spurs
17:30, 01 May 2019

It was any Tottenham fans’ ultimate dream, the greatest player on the planet pulling on the famous lilywhite shirt and running out to represent Spurs on the hallowed White Hart Lane pitch alongside the likes of Clive Allen, Chris Waddle and Glenn Hoddle.

But this wasn’t some kind of far-fetched fantasy. It happened for real on May 1, 1986, when Diego Armando Maradona played for Tottenham Hotspur against Inter Milan as part of his fellow countryman, friend and teammate Ossie Ardiles’s testimonial celebrations.

Ardiles had arrived at Tottenham with Ricardo Villa following the 1978 World Cup; paving the way for future foreign stars in the English game while sealing a special relationship between Spurs and Argentina which has remained strong ever since.  

Having burst onto the scene at the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain, which had ended in tears after he was sent off against Brazil having been kicked all over the park by Batista, Maradona was the most talked about player in the game at the time, having signed for Barcelona for a then World record fee of £5million.

But after something of a disappointing spell at Camp Nou Maradona broke the transfer record once again when he moved to Napoli, a move which would see him propelled to God-like status in Naples in a spell which would see him win two Serie A titles, the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup.

So it was no surprise that a gate of well over 30,000 turned up to not only celebrate Ardiles’s time at Tottenham, but also catch a glimpse of a man who would ultimately go on to win the World Cup almost single-handedly two months later in Mexico.

"His sheer magnetism lifted the whole atmosphere,” Glenn Hoddle, who had let Maradona wear his number 10 shirt, told some years later. “The kick-off had to be delayed for 15 minutes to allow all the thousands of fans in. It was clear the public were enthralled to have the chance to see a player of Maradona’s special skills, and he didn’t disappoint them.”

There was one problem though. Probably the biggest superstar in the game at the time had turned up for the game just hours after playing Norway in a World Cup warm-up game  without sleep and minus his boots; relying on one of his teammates lending him a pair so he could play in the match.

Luckily there was one man that night who also wore the incredibly small size six-and-a-half boots which Diego required and that was Clive Allen, a man who would go on to write his own name into Spurs folklore the following season with an incredible 49 goals.

Using Ardiles as an interpreter Allen explained that he had two pairs of boots; one old pair he’d worn all season and a new pair that he’d been breaking in, telling the star: “Diego, be my guest and take whatever pair you want.”

Having chosen the old pair Allen pleaded with Maradona to wear the new ones, which he did, and it proved to be an inspired decision with the deadly marksman scoring along with Mark Falco in the 2-1 win that night while the Argentine signed the boots he’d borrowed as a mark of gratitude.

"I've never played in a game where I felt like a spectator because, on the night, Diego and Glenn were just on another planet," Allen later claimed."They were telepathic, and you just wanted them to have the ball. Some of the flicks and skills were incredible."

Meanwhile, Chris Waddle, who had also had the honour of playing in a midfield which included Ardiles, Hoddle and Maradona also waxed lyrical about his teammate that night. “He was by far the best player I’ve ever played with. In the game he did a couple of nice runs and a bicycle kick; he was quite quiet, but when you had the ball you knew you could give it to him and there wouldn’t be any problems,” he later claimed.

1986 would see Maradona enjoy his greatest moment on the international stage, guiding Argentina to World Cup glory thanks to five goals and four assists, as well as dumping England out of the competition thanks to his infamous “Hand of God” moment; while for one night only Spurs fans were able to say that the greatest player on the planet was a Tottenham player.  

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