Diego Armando Maradona was, and indeed still is, a man who does not sit easily with the word no. The Argentine superstar was the world's most coveted player back in his Barcelona heyday, and as such he expected his every whim and demand, however outrageous, to be fulfilled.
The man usually tasked with making the impossible happen was agent Jorge Cyterszpiler, Diego's lifelong friend and confidant who died Sunday at the age of 58. But there was one challenge that proved beyond even his famed fixing powers: arranging for Maradona to bed legendary society beauty Caroline, the Princess of Monaco.
According to a Barcelona insider from the time, the pint-sized No. 10 was obsessed with Caroline, and moved mountains to arrange a rendezvous in Monte Carlo. "Maradona got to the point where he asked, and almost demanded, that Cyterszpiler convince [former Barca president Josep Luis] Nunez to organise a friendly in Monaco so he could make contact with the princess," the source explained to El Pais.
The venture did not prosper, one of the few times the agent failed to deliver for a player that he had nurtured and negotiated for since the very beginning.
Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Buenos Aires and a regular visitor to Argentinos Juniors, the young Cyszterpiler had started to drift away from the club upon the death of his brother Juan Eduardo. Devastated by the loss, he was nevertheless convinced to return to La Paternal by a friend in order to witness the nine-year-old phenomenon that was playing in the famed Cebollitas youth side.
Three years Diego's senior, he took the kid under his wing, and 10 years later he was still at Maradona's side negotiating the most lucrative transfer in Argentine football history, to take El Pibe de Oro to Boca Juniors. The youngster received a total of $600,000 from the sale, in the form of two luxurious Buenos Aires apartments. Boca, meanwhile, were almost bankrupted by the deal, a story repeated when Barcelona swooped to take him to Camp Nou in 1982.
Diego trusted his "brother" with almost every aspect of his life, leaving all business decisions to his agent while he focused on matters on the pitch. "We took care of everything based on friendship, without signing a single piece of paper," he said on one occasion. In turn, Cyterszpiler became the head of the star's legendary entourage, procuring everything from an invitation to fellow Albiceleste legend Mario Kempes to come to a family barbecue, to the girls with whom he preferred to unwind in his spare time.
"For the slippery Maradona, the day does not start until 10 p.m.," Cesar Menotti, his former coach with both Argentina and Barcelona, once claimed. Another Barcelona insider alluded to the party atmosphere: "Whatever time you went there, there was always someone eating up at the table. There was always food, always someone in the bedroom, you always had the chance to get laid." A Blaugrana director, meanwhile, referring to a surprise visit he made to the Maradona residence, told El Pais he was surprised to see the star "naked in bed next to Claudia and a Chihuahua, watching a pornographic movie."
“As manager, perhaps I should have imposed greater diligence,” Cyterszpiler told Jimmy Burns in Maradona: The Hand of God.
“But as a friend I felt there was a limit to how far I could go in controlling his money. The money was after all his. He would tell me: ‘Buy that house, or that car.’ And I had no choice but to buy it … High spending was part of Diego’s life.”
When Diego's Catalan adventure turned sour, Cyterszpiler again produced the goods with the third lucrative switch of his short career, this time to Italy with Napoli. But despite the fortunes negotiated by the agent on behalf of his client, little of it found its way back to him. "Cyterszpiler had such bad luck with the numbers that I was broke," he said, dumbstruck, on signing for the Serie A side.
It was true: his agent had squandered vast quantities of cash in failed investments ranging from petroleum concerns to a Paraguayan bingo hall, leaving Diego almost back where he started. But while he dispensed with Cyterszpiler's services in 1985, teaming up with the equally exuberant Guillermo Coppola, their friendship never wavered.
The agent turned his hand to sports event management, forming a successful enterprise while continuing to represent players across the world. At the time of his death, caused by a fall from the seventh storey of a hotel suite in Buenos Aires' upmarket Puerto Madero neighbourhood, Cyterszpiler's client list included Martin Demichelis, Mariano Andujar and Luciano Vietto.
It was his link to Diego, however, that made him a household name in football circles, and while his financial acumen may be questioned, nobody ever doubted his devotion to that first client. "I loved Diego, I love him and I will always love him," he confided in one interview. "I do not speak poorly of him: that is my concept of friendship. You will never hear a bad word of him come out of my mouth."
Maradona's romps in Barcelona with his entourage, including Cyterszpiler, have passed into football legend. But the late businessman also revolutionised the world of football as we know it: he was the first superagent, a fore-runner to the likes of Kia Joorabchian and Mino Raiola who saw that Diego's immense talents would herald a new commercial age for the beautiful game. He was not wrong, and the way the sport conducts business, for better or worse, owes a great deal to the moment he took that curly-haired kid under his wing and decided to make him the greatest player on the planet.