One of the most mercurial and enigmatic characters in the game during his playing days, Argentine legend Diego Maradona sensationally admitted yesterday that he had signed a contract in 1989 with Olympique de Marseille, which should have seen him join the French club from Napoli.
“I was a Marseille player,” he declared on Monday, reports Ligue 1’s official website. “Napoli president Corrado Ferlaino didn't want me to leave, but I had signed a contract with [then Marseille president] Bernard Tapie.
Tapie continues the story. “It wasn't just Maradona that had signed, but Mr. Ferlaino, the Napoli president had signed as well,” revealed the controversial former OM boss. “I had the player and the Club's official accords.
“The negotiations were leaked and Ferlaino asked me to go back on the transfer. I had all the signatures but I decided to let it go.
“The transfer fee was FF60 million, the equivalent of less than €10m today. It really was a great deal, a bargain.
“Since we couldn't have Maradona, we signed Chris Waddle for FF45m [less than €7m].”
These revelations are startling as it was previously believed that Maradona, who wanted away from the pressures of Italian football at that time, only found out about Marseille’s interest in him when he read in a newspaper that an emissary from the French club had been in Naples to discuss a transfer.
Now coach of the Argentine national football team, for which he starred nearly 100 times as a player, Maradona leads his country in action in the Mediterranean port he nearly called home 20 years ago.
Robin Bairner, Goal.com