Goal.com illustrates the great man's best moments for his 50th birthday celebrations...
Cesar Menotti took the bold decision to exclude the 17-year-old Maradona from his 1978 World Cup squad; a stance that was vindicated as Argentina won the tournament on home soil. He had no problem entrusting responsibility to the young Argentinos Juniors playmaker for the FIFA World Youth Championships a year later. Along with Ramon Diaz, el Diego had too much for any opponent in Japan and Argentina claimed the trophy with 20 goals scored and only two conceded. Maradona waltzed away with the player of the tournament award; he displayed his awesome potential with expertise shining through in his range of dribbling, passing, finishing and dead-ball acumen. Predictably, Maradona and his partner-in-crime Diaz netted in the final.
Not bad for a fat boy - Four goals against Boca Juniors 9/11/1980
During an interview in 1980 the outspoken Boca Juniors goalkeeper, Hugo Gatti, stated that Diego Maradona was a 'gordito' (fat kid) who could play football very well.' Maradona was still with Argentinos Juniors, his first professional club, and he did not take too kindly to the backhanded compliment. He vowed to score four goals when the clubs next met. Bear in mind that Argentinos Juniors, despite the presence of Maradona, were a relatively modest club, even more so in comparison with continental behemoth Boca. Diego duly delivered on his promise, scoring from the penalty spot and with a cute flick. He also buried two exquisite free-kicks. Not bad for a fat kid.
World Cup quarter-final 1986 act 1 - The Hand of God
The most infamous match in the career of the game's most infamous player. Played against the backdrop of conflict in the Falklands/ Malvinas a few years before, England took on Diego's Argentina for a place in the World Cup semi-finals. Maradona decided the encounter with the footballing equivalent of Yin and Yang. Dark and light; cheating and genius. Two of the most memorable goals in World Cup history. Early in the second half, Maradona attempted a pass to Jorge Valdano but succeeded only in finding Steve Hodge. The English midfielder looped the ball towards his own goal, prompting an aerial duel between Maradona, standing at 1.65m and Peter Shilton, the goalkeeper, who stood 1.85m. With a flick of his left hand, the Argentina captain lofted the ball beyond Shilton and into the net. With his team-mates unsure of what to do next, Maradona bellowed for them to join him in celebration for fear of the referee, Ali Bin Nasser, disallowing the goal. After the match, the Argentina number 10 claimed that the goal had been scored 'with a little of Maradona and a little of the Hand of God'. The rest is history.
World Cup quarter-final 1986 act 2 - The Goal of the Century
If England thought that they were in the presence of merely a devious huckster after the first goal was scored, they could have no doubt about the talent that the squat Maradona exuded with his second strike of the game just three minutes later. Quite simply, words do not do it justice. Watch this. Then watch it again. The Goal of the Century.
On top of the world - Winning the 1986 World Cup in Mexico
Maradona and Argentina were riding the crest of a wave; following the defeat of England came Belgium in the semi-finals. Again, the captain was to the fore; scoring twice and inspiring his side to a second World Cup final in three attempts. Argentina dropped a two-goal lead late in the game against West Germany but a perfect Maradona through-ball found Jorge Burruchaga, who made sure of the victory with only minutes remaining. Maradona was awarded the Golden Ball, for best player, and earned the adulation of 30 million countrymen.
Serie A and Coppa Italia double 1987 - Maradona becomes a Napoli legend
The Partenopei led the table all the way from week seven until the end of the season and they clinched it on the penultimate day with a 1-1 draw at home to Fiorentina that sent the whole of Napoli into non stop days of partying. Maradona was Napoli's top scorer with 10 goals and their lynchpin. He was instrumental in the famous wins over Milan and champions Juventus, whom Napoli beat home and away It was their first ever Scudetto and Napoli embellished their maiden triumph by clinching the Coppa Italia over two legs against the relegated Atalanta. Maradona became a God in the eyes of the people of Naples. It was also a victory for the south of Italy over their more illustrious northern brethren.
The factionism was referred to by Maradona ahead of Italy and Argentina's bad-tempered World Cup semi-final at San Paolo. The Argentina skipper intimated that it may be difficult for the Napolitani to throw their support behind the Italy team when their compatriots from further north look down their noses at them 364 days a year.
Life is Life - UEFA Cup Semi-Final 1989
If you ever go to Stadio San Paolo in Naples and wonder why the players are warming up to the Opus 1980s' hit 'Life is Life' then here is your answer. It is in homage to their beloved former captain, who immortalised the tune ahead of the UEFA Cup semi-final in the Olympiastadion in Munich in 1989. Maradona staged an impromptu skills session before kick-off that barely passed for a credible warm-up routine. The ball was under his command, on a string. He danced, he dribbled, he balanced the ball on his forehead and wiggled his hips. He did not engage in too many stretches or sprints but he gave the paying public an added treat to go along with their football match. Sheer genius carried out with the spirit and enthusiasm of a schoolboy. Napoli garnered a 2-2 draw from the game, which came after a 2-0 win at San Paolo.
Napoli strike out on the continent - 1989 UEFA Cup triumph
Napoli's first ever Serie A triumph was rewarded with a place in the European Cup but the luck of the draw would dictate that they were to meet Real Madrid in their opening match. They lost over two legs but their second-placed finish in the Italian league in 1988 meant they would compete in the 1988-89 UEFA Cup. Along the road to the final, the Azzurri dispatched Juventus in thrilling circumstances, clawing back a 2-0 deficit from the first leg to win 3-0 at San Paolo in what is regarded as one of Maradona's greatest ever performances for Napoli. Bayern Munich were put to the sword, largely through the goalscoring prowess of Careca, in the semis before Stuttgart were tamed in the two-legged final.
Controversial second Scudetto - 1990
1990 was a closer and more controversial title race. Napoli led for most the of season until European champions Milan overtook them in February. The Rossoneri seemed the more likely to win the Scudetto until they lost at Verona on the penultimate matchday in hugely controversial circumstances; a game which Paolo Maldini claimed was even more controversial than the South Korea-Italy clash in 2002. Napoli won their last two games of the season to beat Milan by two points. Again Maradona was the key man as he scored 16 goals and Napoli had an almost perfect home record with 16 wins and 1 draw from 17 games. Video of his time at Napoli - might be worth using for both Scudetto:
One last moment of inspiration - Argentina defeat Brazil in 1990 World Cup
Aside from Napoli's triumph in Serie A in 1990, the following decade was not to be a fond one for Diego. His abilities waned, he departed Napoli in acrimonious circumstances for Sevilla and he was only a shadow of his former self as a decade's worth of indulgance caught up. His downward spiral into the world of drug abuse and obesity almost cost him his life as he struggled to come to terms with his footballing demise. With the national team he tested positive for a banned substance at the 1994 World Cup, ending his international career in farce and ignominy. But for a while, a short while, during the summer of 1990, Diego fought the ravages of time and abuse. The Argentina squad which played in Italy to defend their 1986 World Cup title was not as talented a group as their 1986 predecessors and again, it was left to Maradona to conjure the magic. He did just that after Argentina scraped through the group stages to face South American rivals Brazil. Maradona's run and pass to Claudio Caniggia for the only goal of the game was the high-point of the contest. Argentina would go on to beat Yugoslavia and Italy on penalties but their, and Maradona's, World Cup dream was ended by the Germans in the final in Rome.