Maradona’s Seleção switch
Argentina beat Brazil in the Italy 1990 second round 30 years ago today
Diego Maradona came up against esteemed Napoli team-mates
Maradona: Caniggia's marvellous goal destroyed Brazil's spirit
The face is famous. So too is the shirt. Seeing them together is, however, more than a little strange. So why was it that Brazil’s legendary Canarinho jersey came to rest on their greatest rivals’ most celebrated player?
The answer is to be found in another of that era’s shining stars. Careca, Brazil’s leading striker at Italy 1990, was Maradona’s team-mate at Napoli. He was also a friend and someone the Albiceleste icon admired greatly.
Indeed, it was Maradona who had effectively demanded that Careca be brought to Naples, telling the club’s owners: “You must get this guy”. And while it took $3.5 million – a then record for a Brazilian player – to prise him from Sao Paulo, he proved worth every penny as the spearhead of I Partenopei’s deadly ‘Ma-Gi-Ca’ forward line.
It was on the back of firing Napoli to UEFA Cup and Scudetto triumphs that Careca arrived at Italy 1990, and with Maradona lauding him as one of the world’s best. "The more they kick him, the better he plays, the more dangerous he becomes," El Pibe de Oro said admiringly.
This esteem for Careca contributed to the holders’ star player striking a pessimistic note when Argentina faced their old foes in the second round. "The Brazilians,” said Maradona, “are very strong - better than we are."
There was no false modesty in this statement, and Brazil set about proving their superiority in a one-sided match in which Dunga, Alemao – another Napoli star - and the lively Careca all struck the woodwork. Argentina, though, held on grimly and, with nine minutes remaining, Maradona produced his inimitable brand of magic.
Picking up the ball in his own half, he set off on a slaloming run towards goal that took him past three Brazilians and then, as four more converged, ended with him slipping a sublime pass through for Claudo Caniggia to score the game’s only goal. "That marvellous goal destroyed Brazil's spirit,” Maradona would later reflect.
He was also angry at suggestions that one of the men he beat on that memorable run had gone easy on him. "It annoyed me that Brazil's press accused Alemao of not having brought me down because we were Napoli team-mates,” he wrote in his autobiography. “Nonsense! I surprised him with my short sprint, that's why he didn't catch me."
Yet it was to Careca, and not Alemao, that Maradona headed at full-time to swap shirts and express commiserations. ''I called him on the telephone yesterday,'' he said afterwards. ''I told him that a friendship is not broken in 90 minutes.”
Sure enough, that friendship did remain intact after this bruising Turin encounter. The same could not be said for Brazilian hearts.