Unlike Pele before him or stars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo more recently, Diego Maradona rarely played in the United States.
Here are some of Maradona's rare visits ...
1979. Cosmos vs. Argentina. Less than a year after winning its first World Cup title, Argentina traveled to face the Cosmos, the reigning NASL champions. In tow was 18-year-old Maradona, who had not been included -- to his great dismay -- Argentina's 1978 World Cup roster.
The Cosmos had just made a coaching change -- Eddie Firmani was replaced by Julio Mazzei as "technical director" and Ray Klivecka as acting coach -- and were playing without injured star Franz Beckenbauer.
More than 70,000 fans watched Ricky Davis, 20, mark Maradona, and the Cosmos frustrated Argentina, which needed a late goal from captain Daniel Passarella to win, 1-0.
How seriously did Argentina take the game? Coach Cesar Luis Menotti did not make a substitution.
1982.FIFA World All-Star Game. A crowd of 76,891 turned up for the UNICEF charity game, a month after the 1982 World Cup. They came to see Italian champions Paulo Rossi and Dino Zoff, representing Europe. The Rest of the World team featured Maradona and such Brazilian greats as Roberto Falcao, Socrates and Zico.
1984. Trans-Atlantic Cup. For five years, the Cosmos organized a four-team tournament at Giants Stadium. For their last season in the NASL, the invited teams were Maradona's Barcelona, Italy's Udinese and Brazil's Fluminense. The Cosmos won the tournament for a third time, beating Barcelona, 5-4, and Udinese, 4-1.
Barcelona won the third-place game in a shootout over Flu, Maradona's final game with Barca before leaving for Napoli in a world record transfer deal.
1985. Coors California Cup. There was no Serie A action during Easter week, so Napoli traveled with Maradona to California for two exhibition games against Mexico's UNAM, the first at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (2-2 tie), the second at San Jose's Spartan Stadium (2-1 for Napoli).
Both teams arrived at Spartan Stadium with the same white uniforms so Napoli had to borrow the uniforms of a local Italian team.
1986.FIFA World All-Star Game. The UNICEF game returned to the United States a month after Maradona led Argentina to its first World Cup title. This time, at the Rose Bowl before a crowd of 57,600.
Before the game, FIFA vice president Harry Cavan hinted that the U.S. Soccer Federation might think about bidding for the 1994 World Cup. (Yes, FIFA badly wanted to play the tournament in the United States.)
The teams: The Americas (with UCLA's Paul Caligiuri) vs. the FIFA World Stars. Former Cosmos Roberto Cabanas scored in the 81st minute and Maradona, the star attraction, made it 2-2 in the 88th minute and scored from the penalty spot to clinch a 4-3 win in the shootout.
1994.World Cup. Maradona was not playing regularly and terribly out of shape, but he arrived in Boston after shedding more than 25 pounds. "I am tired of all those who said I was fat and no longer the great Maradona,” he said. “They will see the real Diego at the World Cup."
Maradona played two games in Foxboro, both Argentina wins (4-0 over Greece and 2-1 over Nigeria). After the Nigeria game, he was chosen to taken the random drug test and tested positive for ephedrine, a stimulant found in cold medicines.
“They killed me” Maradona said. "They have retired me from soccer. I don't think I want another revenge, my soul is broken."
The positive test result, which earned Maradona a 15-month worldwide suspension, came as no surprise, though.
Years later, Sepp Blatter, then-FIFA general secretary, said Argentine federation president Julio Grondona made the sign of the cross and said, 'God help us' when he learned that Maradona had been selected to be tested.
I was "Lucky" to be one of the Madridistas in attendance at the Game where Diego Sprinted from Half Field with the Ball, Dribbled the Keeper, Dribbled the Covering Fullback on the Goal Line and Scored for Barcelona... He Recieved a Standing Ovation from Us All... Most Dynamic, Explosive, Dangerous Player ever... Not the Best(Cruijff for me, then Pele)... But it's a Close 1-2-3.!!!
I think the Headline I liked most was... "In GODs Hand Now".!!! RIP
Another GREAT ONE gone! Over the last couple of years so many great ones ,known in soccer circles, but not necessarily known to many of the new American soccer fans. The great Ajax team with Cruyff that initiated Total Soccer of the 70's only 5 players are left of that squad. Of the famous Dutch team '74WC only 8. I can only say I was so lucky to have experienced, watched such great soccer players and such exciting times. This is why I would stress for those who are interested in reading books by these players ,or interviews to gain 'real' soccer insight instead of the garbage that is fed to you about soccer from these coaching courses. I so lament the fact many of the dutch books are not in English but Cruyff's are except for one which ,I think, is most important of all called VOETBAL . This book has so much insight, and it is so simple to understand for everyone. I've called the Cruyff Foundation but alas, nothing, but I will try again. If anyone know or can get in touch with Todd Beane, Cruyff's son-in-law, tell him this book should be translated into English and why hasn't it been?
The argument who was better Cruyff, Maradona, Pele? Santiago sees it in this order and favors Cruyff. My pick comes close to Santiago for to me it depends on what you're looking at or want.
Van Hanegem, the great Dutch left midfielder of the WC'74, thought by many to be best player not Cruyff of the WC'74( can you imagine both of them playing on the same team ,he is ). All these years Dutch soccer considered to have two oracles of soccer Cruyff and van Hanegem...
In this video VH is #3, Forgotten Footballers - Willem van Hanegem in the 1974 WC - YouTube
Van Hanegem who played with and against Cruyff, stated in his column that Maradona was the best player and stated that Cruyff was "fanstastic". He also stated that Messi was not even close to Maradona. He stated Maradona carried the whole team when he played with the Argentinian NT or with Napoli, as a matter of fact Napoli was in position to be relegated before Maradona took over and made Napoli win 2x championship. A friend was in Napoli during the championship celebration and stated as he drove past a cemetery he noticed flying a huge banner stating, "Sorry ,you all missed it".
Van Hanegem stated the difference between Maradona and Messi was Maradona could carry a whole team and made the players around him better but Messi can't carry a whole team ,he needs a lot of support and he does not make other players better. Ruud Gullit once stated that a Great player makes other players look better, Messi lacks that ability.
Messi, as a matter of fact would have problems without Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets, behind him. Messi had the greatest midfielder at that time , Xavi, playing behind him. Looking at the Argentinian NT, Messi was a failure, didn't produce.
I picked Cruyff, but whenever someone asks me who was the best my heart goes out to PELE!!!
Why? If I compare the individual talent, one on one skills ,I picked Cruyff as #3, for Pele and Maradona were much better as specific individual skills. But as far as 'all-around', Maradona is #3 and Pele and Cruyff both equal. Maradona had no rightfoot AT ALL. I remember an Italian game where Maradona positioned 3 feet away from the goal post ,having the ball on right foot, HAD to switch the ball to his left foot to score. Maradona only used his rightfoot to stand on, he was helpless.
If I combined , Soccer Brains, skills, leadership, than Cruyff comes out on top. To me Maradona lacked the brains and insights of a Cruyff, who was a genius in that department and has proven that in what Cruyff has accomplished,as coach and player in the world of soccer in how to play the game ;therefore I rank Cruyff above Pele and Maradona, #2,#3 respectfully.
Cruyff's build was frail as compared to Maradona and Pele who were solidly build. Under these conditions Cruyff was forced to play smart, he couldn't afford to get knocked around. That led to him playing with both feet, passing, shooting ,and dribbling. At the age of 14 ,he was able to pass the ball 6 different ways, inside, outside, and instep with either foot, something pros today can't even accomplish. Furthermore Cruyff always had to be moving while receiving and at same time position himself to get the optimum fieldview, to know where his nearest opponent and the next station ,be it a pass or move , for the ball. He thought 3 -4 moves in advance to see the game. What i'm saying is that because of physical or lack of physical build, he had to play smart ,as well as so many other factors that other players were not aware of in order to survive.
Pele, always had great players on the team he played on; Garrincha, Pepe, Edu, Jair, Rivelino, the white Pele , Tostao, Carlos Albertos, Didi, Zagalo, and Gerson, who Cruyff stated was one of the greatest and most efficient player ever,etc, etc. Cruyff also had good players around him but he was able to lift the whole team as a whole to a higher level the way Cruyff wanted soccer to be played.
Although Pele and Maradona, had fantastic individual ballhandling skills like juggling a grapefruit, or the juggling show Maradona performs ,all which Cruyff thought of as not being soccer and would look good at a circus. As told by one of my kids, who played for the Cosmos stated that he watched Cruyff stand behind the goal ,chip the ball over the goal with enough backspin to let it roll back into the goal.
Another anecdote came a Feyenoord player being interviewed at Feyenoord, Ajax's nemesis, where Cruyff played his last year and made them champions that year. The Feyenoord players didn't like Cruyff because first of all he was Mr. Ajax and second of all Cruyff knew soccer better than anyone else and he lets you know that too, as well. As they were running around the outside of the field, the Feyenoord player stated too Cruyff with chagrin ," You think you know it all, don't you!". Cruyff ,turned to him as they ran, and pointed to a ball laying on the field about 35 meters from the goal and stated ' I'm going kick that ball and let it land on top of the goal post( they were square at that time), not hit the front but on top". Cruyff proceeds running towards the ball, kicks it and lets it land on top of the post. The Feyenoord player stated that after he accomplished that " ,Cruyff returned ,running next to me turned his head to me with a big smiled. Well, I said to himself, I got to respect that!"
Another anecdote came from one of my kids that tried out for the LA Aztecs. He stated as they were playing, they all watched this little ,skinny guy in the distance approaching the field while smoking a cigarette.... Michels asked if Cruyff wanted to work out a little. Cruyff took the ball beat, opponent's team and beat them by himself and went back to the locker room...
I juuuust missed my chance to see him play. I was in attendace at the Argentina v Romania World Cup '94 match at the Rose Bowl. He had just been suspended, I was bummed. I think I remember seeing him up in the box but even so it was a great disappointment! It was a great match though, voted best of the tournament.