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Diego Maradona

'We want to remember Diego as a football genius' - Ex-Napoli star Volpecina backs San Paolo name change

12:00 GMT+3 10/12/2020
Diego Maradona Napoli
The club and the municipality of Naples confirmed last week that the famous old ground would carry the name of its favourite son

Diego Maradona's former Napoli team-mate Giuseppe Volpecina backs the decision to rename the Stadio San Paolo after the club legend, while describing his time alongside Diego as one of the best in his career. 

The stadium initiative began just hours after the news broke on November 25 that Maradona had passed away at his Tigre home at the age of 60. 

Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris floated the prospect of a name change on Twitter in his tribute to the Argentine, who helped the club to the only two Scudetti in their history during seven years in the south of Italy. 

The proposal found favour with Napoli officials, and the change was finally confirmed last week in the Naples Municipal Council, as the former San Paolo is owned by the city

And Volpecina, who played alongside Diego for Napoli in their title-winning 1986-7 season, believes that the late idol is more than worthy of the honour. 

"I am very happy for Stadio San Paolo to be renamed after Diego Armando Maradona, he deserves this and much more," the ex-Napoli, Verona and Fiorentina defender told Goal

"At the same time, though, not calling it San Paolo anymore can have an effect and it will be difficult, but I am happy that the Neapolitans and Naples have made this gesture for their greatest idol. That was the right thing to do.

"My experience with Diego was amazing, it was at the height of his career and private life. He was in brilliant form, he won the World Cup and the Scudetto in a few months. He was always in the right place, it was a fantastic year.

"When I left Napoli and heard some of the news about him, I could not believe it, because Maradona was too smart. But he liked to live his life at one thousand kilometres per hour, always on the front page.

"Diego in Naples was a leader. We all gave 110 per cent, many of us were from Campania and they really cared about us, we put in something more. A mix of local and experienced young people, with the icing on the cake - Diego - who made the difference. We began matches 1-0 ahead, the others had to chase us."

Maradona's wizardly talents on the pitch were shadowed for years by his struggles off it, which included a prolonged battle with addiction.

"Diego's problems were related to the private sphere. Everyone decides to live as he wants, he admitted he was wrong," Volpecina added.

"They are all known things: once we knew of his death, pulling them out after decades was wrong, it was out of line. Whoever did it missed the opportunity to shut up.

"We want to remember Diego as a football genius. With his magic he entertained everyone and the affection received in these days from all over the world shows it. This is what speaks for him."

While Napoli have come close to the Scudetto on numerous occasions since Maradona left in 1991, finishing runner-up four times behind Juventus in the last nine seasons, they have been unable to reclaim the title and mirror the Argentine's achievement. 

Volpecino believes that it is difficult for any player to emerge and take on Diego's mantle at Napoli, or indeed to emulate his generation of heroes in the 1980s and early 1990s.

"There were more eclectic players and the plays came out more easily. We had Diego, Milan had Marco van Basten, Udinese had Zico, Inter had Lothar Matthaus, Juve had Michel Platini," he recalled.

"In that Napoli, for example, there were players like Salvatore Bagni or Bruno Giordano, who could be decisive at any moment: today I don't see it.

"Dries Mertens is a great player, he has made history at Napoli and scores goals. Lorenzo Insigne is a talent with great technique, but there are not any champions like in the past - apart from Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It's different, more tactical football, you have to get there with the game and it is more difficult to see the great invention."