THE VIEW FROM SPAIN: Diego Maradona’s two years at Barca showed how difficult it was for flair players 40 years ago… but not even the Butcher of Bilbao could hold his genius back
He was in Spain ahead of the World Cup when Barca paid a world-record fee of around £6.3million for him in 1982. Asked about the violent defending that awaited him, the 21-year-old said: ‘You get kicked wherever you play.’
But the treatment was merciless and at the start of Maradona’s second season, the ‘Butcher of Bilbao’ — Athletic centre back Andoni Goikoetxea — smashed his ankle ligaments and sidelined him for three months.
Barcelona paid a world-record fee of around £6.3million to sign Diego Maradona in 1982
Agent Josep Maria Minguella, who brokered the deal to take Maradona to Spain, said on Wednesday night: ‘His time at Barca was ruined by a criminal tackle. He would have won 10 league titles without that.’
When Maradona and Goikoetxea met again in the 1984 Spanish Cup final, the game ended in a brawl.
Tempers had flared throughout and there were flying kicks at the final whistle. When Bilbao substitute Miguel Sola ran on to join the melee and slipped, Maradona kneed him in the jaw and all hell broke loose.
Maradona registered 38 goals and 24 assists in 58 games for Barca, winning three trophies
Referee Franco Martinez had already darted down the tunnel sensing the carnage to come and did not include the incident in his match report.
Maradona was banned for three months but moved to Napoli soon after anyway.
Despite the injuries and illnesses — he also suffered with hepatitis — Maradona managed 38 goals and 24 assists in 58 games, winning a Spanish Cup, a League Cup and a Super Cup.
There was a Spanish swansong in 1992-93 when he spent a year at Sevilla. The club’s sporting director, and then goalkeeper, Monchi recalled: ‘Diego was at 30 per cent of his capacity by then, but he was still incredible.’
Maradona, captaining Barca, shakes hands with Man United’s Bryan Robson before the European Cup Winners Cup quarter-final Second Leg in 1984