When Diego Armando Maradona arrived at Napoli in 1984 for a world-record fee, the entire city ground to a halt to greet him: 75,000 Partenopeans packed the Stadio San Paolo to roar his name as the city welcomed the player they would soon come to refer to as God. When he left, seven years later, he left alone, abandoned by a once-adoring fan base tired and disgusted by his slow dive into a world of crime, drugs and vice.
Maradona encapsulated the utter madness of Naples. The fanatic Neapolitan city provided the perfect backdrop for one of the greatest footballers of all time to truly make his mark on the world game, but his peak would be brief as he became enshrouded in controversy off the field. For a couple of hours, you can drop yourself into the chaotic life of Diego Maradona with this sensational eponymous film from Asif Kapadia, the filmmaking brain behind both ‘Senna’ and ‘Amy’.
As a poor southern city in Italy, looked down upon with snobbery by the richer towns in the affluent north, Maradona and Naples were a match made in heaven. There is a tangible love perfectly portrayed between the locals and the man they refer to as ‘Dio (god)’ as he embarks on a quest to win them their first Italian league title. A banner on the wall of the local cemetery simply read, “You don’t know what you missed,” such was the love for the little Argentine in his new adopted home.
Volatility is the word that defines Maradona’s career and it is prophetically symbolic that Mount Vesuvius looms over the town he made his home. Lava overflows as Maradona’s off-the-field activities come under scrutiny but his irrepressible talent on the pitch overshadowed those misdemeanors for the majority of his career. His developing drug habit could have bankrupted Pablo Escobar, but he would still put in a match-winning performance on a Sunday. The fans' love was limitless, or so they thought.
The turning point was the 1990 World Cup. Four years before he had become a world champion, but this tournament was on Italian soil and Maradona was now the enemy. That changed everything as he was buried under an avalanche of media attention and this film encapsulates the struggles the Argentine faced in the place where he was once heralded as a god.
With a South American flair and a zest for life, you truly get to know one of the most fascinating characters in football. For many younger football fans they will know Maradona more for his drug-fuelled antics in the stands rather than his mesmeric footballing ability, but this film manages to show both sides of his turbulent life, differentiating between ‘Diego’ and ‘Maradona’.
Just as we saw with Senna and Amy, Kapadia has formulated a successful blueprint for this type of documentary. A two-hour emotional journey which manages to portray the huge highs and plunging lows of his career, you can feel the pedigree that has gone into making this. Educating, entertaining and insightful, this should be seen as the benchmark for any documentary. Diego Maradona, as he was throughout his career, is simply unmissable.
You can watch Diego Maradona on All 4 here.