In March 1991, afterward a game Napoli had played against Bari, Diego Maradona failed a drug test. The Italian football authorities banned him for fifteen months. He fled to Buenos Aires, where the Argentinian law government subjected him to continual harassment and surveillance, including a short spell in jail. Maradona chosen those 15 months “among the about terrible of my whole life”.
In July 1992, with the ban over, Maradona was determined to “detach [himself] from Napoli”. He joined Sevilla, managed by Carlos Bilardo, who was in charge of Argentina for the 1986 and 1990 World Cups.
Only after his arrival in Sevilla, he spoke with Bruno Bernardi, a legendary journalist for the Turin daily
whom Maradona admired deeply.
Would you take returned to Naples?
When I was desperate – confronting Claudia’s [Claudia Villafañe, his married woman], Franchi [Marcos Franchi, his manager] and the medico’s advice – I wanted to play once more, even in Naples. I made the last attempt with the 21 atmospheric condition that concerned the man more than than the money. I didn’t even owe Ferlaino [Corrado Ferlaino, the owner of Napoli] a dollar because with the new contract I had already played three seasons. Rather, it was Napoli that owed me $7m, a figure that also includes the advance for 1992–93. A lilliputian goodwill would have been enough. When Careca, Crippa and De Napoli [teammates at Napoli] phoned me, they touched the depths of my eye. In Naples I have many friends, inside and outside of football. And it’s merely Ferlaino’s fault if I’m at Sevilla.
Ferlaino wished for you a future every bit an executive.
If I always become one, I volition not collaborate with Ferlaino. He and I are as well different.
Naples has given you so much only what did it take abroad from you?
Naples loved me in a suffocating style, without ever a moment of peace to let me breathe. I hoped, and they promised me, that afterward ii or three years it would change, but instead the pressure increased. I don’t blame the Neapolitans. I seized on the promise Ferlaino fabricated me that if we won the Uefa Cup he would release me a season early on. He took information technology back. And that was when I freaked out.
Juventus would have done annihilation for you that flavor. Gianni Agnelli [Juventus’s owner] permit it exist understood, and [the Juventus executive] Giampiero Boniperti said you are the simply peachy champion who hasn’t worn the black and white jersey. You were almost on the verge of coming to Turin: what would have changed in Maradona’s history if yous had signed that contract?
Juve was my groovy dream and I would take been the thespian who keeps talking and screaming on the pitch, dragging his teammates, the type of role player missing since the days of Roberto Bettega and Marco Tardelli, when Juve won everything. In Turin I would accept collected titles, I would still be in a city where you lot can walk quietly down Via Roma without being harassed, like when I was in Italy those showtime few months, nonetheless in Naples I couldn’t exit the hotel. Roberto Baggio is a champion, peradventure the only i forth with Claudio Caniggia, who tin can go my heir, but he must suffer as he is currently doing for a couple of more years to proceeds experience and maturity. Juve is an extraordinary social club and you have to have your hat off to the
[Agnelli]. He is too strong, miles away from [Milan’south owner Silvio] Berlusconi.
Bernardi: Now it is Milan that dominates and allows itself the luxury of sending Ruud Gullit to the stands.
Absurd. I have a lot of anger towards Berlusconi: he is an egoist who has six foreigners not so much for strengthening Milan, but to weaken the competition. He is killing football. I understand the power of what has hurt me and then much only Gullit doesn’t deserve a similar treatment. And in improver to Ruud, the public is penalised by existence deprived of seeing an ace similar the Dutchman who brings them so much joy. If he is not needed, they should give him to Sevilla.
Bernardi: In Milan, Lentini’s market price [For a cursory period, Gianluigi Lentini was the world’south most expensive actor, moving from Torino to Ac Milan for 18.5bn Italian lira] dwarfs the one paid by Napoli to sign you from Barcelona eight years agone. Is that right?
It is a consequence of the demands that [Lentini’s gild] Torino fabricated. Lentini already seemed to belong to Juve and Berlusconi took him away with a contract that could not be turned downward. I gather Lentini earns even more I practice. He is certainly a groovy frontwards merely he’s not a phenomenon.
Bernardi: So is Milan unassailable?
They can win the Scudetto again. Juve remain Milan’s nemesis, however, and they cannot afford to think of the time to come past acquiring young players; it must think about winning immediately and strengthening themselves with players full of personality. To exist articulate, the club needs a Carlo Ancelotti blazon who dominates the pitch and puts psychological pressure on his teammates and on his opponents. The other teams are not ready to compete with Milan. Not Inter, which lacks a Lothar Matthäus from their all-time days to hope to win the Uefa Cup. Not Napoli: Ferlaino no longer wants to make it a winning squad. Neither Sampdoria that lost Gianluca Vialli. Not the Roma of my friend Caniggia. Not Toro that has a adept squad, but doesn’t need the scudetto.
Do you miss our Serie A?
Very much. Just now I’m in Spain. I am thinking well-nigh Sevilla’s game tomorrow against Matthäus’s Bayern: you will see a great Maradona. I have also invited King Juan Carlos. And I’m thinking about my debut in La Liga on vii October.
Are you non aiming for Us 94?
It’due south early on, and I have so many doubts. Starting time, I have to regain my place in the national team for the World Cup which would be my final and which could exist distorted by differences in climate and fourth dimension zones. At Italy 90 we went to the final because [Italy bus Azeglio] Vicini didn’t play Pietro Vierchowod: if he had played in defence, we would never have drawn [and reached the concluding on penalties]. And I pray to God that Sacchi’south
do not reach the heights of Milan, otherwise they will get the strongest and there volition be nothing for anyone.
• This is an edited extract from an interview which was commencement published in La Stampa in September 1992. It appears in Diego Maradona: The Last Interview & Other Conversations, available now from Melville Business firm. Translation past Allegra Donn