Remembering Diego Maradona's Magical Warm Up in 1989 UEFA Cup Semi Final

Nov 25, 2020, 7:15 PM GMT
Diego Armando Maradona
Maradona is the greatest of all time | Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images
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Napoli came into the second leg of their UEFA Cup semi-final clash with Bayern Munich in 1989 looking to protect a 2-0 lead from the first game.

Over 73,000 fans were in attendance in Munich for the second leg, but before the match had even got underway, they were treated to footballing brilliance by one man just enjoying himself and doing what he did best for his warm up.

It was, of course, Diego Armando Maradona.

It was pure, it was organic, it was Maradona just being himself. As his teammates were seen stretching and doing sprints to warm up ahead of a crucial match, Maradona had no such plans. Instead, he was like a kid in the playground with the ball at his feet, elegantly and nonchalantly flicking the ball up and effortlessly keeping it within his control.

From knee to knee and then flicking up to his head where the ball simply stuck to him, Maradona would make what was an outrageously difficult set of skills look oh so simple. But it was Maradona after all, and very few could ever replicate some of the things he was able to do with a football.

With each flick and each dance-like movement, fans would move just that little bit closer to the edge of their seats, waiting in anticipation to see what he was going to do next. And Maradona recognised this - of course he did - raising his hands and clapping along to the music as if the stadium was his back garden before then raising the volume levels within the stadium that little bit more. Away goes the smile and he focuses back in on his own bubble, the game face comes on and he is back into manipulating the ball with even more unthinkable skill.

The way he was able to possess such control while performing such skill was mesmerising in itself, but what makes it even more captivating is the way he was able to juggle the ball in time with the music. The knees coming up to meet the ball faster and faster, yet not once does he ever begin to even remotely look like he's losing control.

The skill and control in this video of his warm up is truly remarkable, but the clip also highlights just how unique Maradona was in his approach to playing the game. Antonio Careca is also seen right at the start of the video playing up to the camera, dancing along to the music with Maradona. But he very quickly gets back to his warm up - but for the legendary Maradona, this was his way of preparing for a game.

Maradona was one of a kind, he wasn't like anyone else and that was clear even in the warm ups. While the rest of his teammates are stood stretching with baggy tops on, Maradona's is tight to his chest as he has what appears to be shoe laces tied around his waist.

The footsteps and adjustments required when juggling the ball in the air in the way Maradona was doing shouldn't be underestimated. But El Pibe de Oro was doing this while his shoelaces were hanging loose, ready and waiting to trip him up.

But again, Maradona preferred it this way as he felt more comfortable. This only added to the organic nature of his warm up and indeed the beauty of it. The way he played football and the unique approach he had cannot be taught or coached, it can only be admired.

In a massively important game, the expectation would have been that each player would be focused and was mentally ready for the task ahead. But Maradona was never bound by such expectations, and it was his unique style and approach to the game, mixed with his footballing intelligence and phenomenal skill, which allowed him to constantly push the boundaries of true excellence.

Maradona, of course, was crucial to Napoli seeing off Bayern Munich in the semi-finals before going on to famously win the final over two legs against Stuttgart.

No warm up should really ever be worthy of writing about or reflecting on, but Maradona was different and on that day prior to kick off, he had every fans' attention - no matter if they were there to support Napoli or Bayern. He was so good he made the footballing world put rivalries aside in moments like those, sometimes it's just about appreciating true artistry.

The footballing world has now lost the greatest footballer of all time in Diego Armando Maradona. As someone who redefined the game with his excellence and gave football fans countless moments - like his warm up against Bayern - to be astounded by, it's very unlikely there will ever be anyone quite like the Argentine again.

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