It’s an argument that has been raging for 30 years and will continue to rage until the very first day of The Rapture. Who is the Best Of All Time? Pelé or Maradona? Both boasted otherworldly skills and won World Cups. Pelé has a decisive 3-1 edge in World Championships but he also had a far more formidable supporting cast every single time he took the pitch for his country.
Still, you can never objectively declare that one is better than the other. Van Eyck or Velázquez? Beethoven or Mozart? Ferrari or Lamborghini? That’s a mug’s game! What it really comes down to is a matter of taste. So I hereby admit that I have always been resolutely in the camp of the Argentine–it’s much more fun there, where anthill-sized piles of cocaine are left about, delicious Malbec wines served by the hogshead and every woman in sight is as scorching as a January afternoon on the Plaza de Mayo. Over in Pelé‘s camp, there is only Subway sandwiches, tedious corporate meetings and trannies.
The 80s were, without question, the prime of Diego Maradona’s career. A league championship with Boca Juniors, a few cups with Barcelona, a world crown in 1986 for Argentina and then the curious case of Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli in Italy. Maradona managed to haul in the Scudetto not once, but two times for a perennial Serie A also-ran. They hadn’t won it before and haven’t won it since.
To watch his first goal against England in the 1986 World Cup Quarterfinal is to watch a canny opportunist doing anything he can to win for his homeland, to watch his second is to peer down into Heaven for a few fleeting moments, perhaps, just perhaps, seeing God Himself at work.
Since then, Maradona has done and said whatever he wants, slowly but steadily chipping away at all the amity he accumulated during the 80s by being as outrageous and unapologetic as possible. Still, he would have to live another millenium or two, roasting live babies on television every single day, to completely deplete it, at least in Argentina and southern Italy. And maybe, not even then.
Just a few years ago, El Diez ordered the packs of Argentine yellow journalists who dog his heels and question his every move to “suck it and keep on sucking it,” and that’s exactly what those lowlifes need to do. While they are busy with that, for Maradona admirers like me, forever in his camp, the blow will be everywhere, the red wine will flow like the Rio Paraná and the Latin American beauties will cling to our limbs like creeping vines.