Remembering Diego Maradona's Scudetto Winning Napoli Side of 1989/90

Raffaele Di Fusco, Massimo Crippa, Diego Armando Maradona, Francesco Romano, Giuliano Giuliani
AS Photo Archive | Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

I wonder if Napoli supporters knew that their beloved club's fortunes would change forever, when Diego Maradona walked through the doors of Stadio San Paolo in 1984.

I Partenopei took a gamble and signed the Argentine maverick, who during his time at Barcelona, had proved his incomparable talent was matched in equal parts by his fragile and volatile temperament.

Maradona would leave an everlasting mark on the city of Naples over his seven years in the south of Italy, helping an unfancied Napoli side lift the first two league titles in its history - their only domestic success to date, too.

And it was on this day in 1990 that the God of Naples helped I Partenopei clinch their second scudetto, pipping Milan to the summit by two points. In honour of Maradona, Napoli, and this special occasion, 90min takes a look back at the number 10's incredible spell in Serie A.

You'd probably assume that when Napoli signed the world's greatest footballer, the Italian side must have fought off some serious competition for the forward's signature. Well, unbelievably, I Partenopei were Maradona's only real option.

They say there's a fine line between genius and madness, and the young Argentinian sensation encapsulated that adage during his two years at Barcelona. He achieved some monumental highs, winning three cup competitions and earning a standing ovation from the Real Madrid faithful in El Clásico, but these feats were overshadowed by some unforgivable lows.

But Maradona's misfortune in Spain was not all his own doing. His first season in La Liga was cruelly cut short by a bout of hepatitis, and then a nasty broken ankle following an awful challenge by Athletic Bilbao bruiser Andoni Goikoetxea.

The next season, Maradona exacted his revenge.

The 1984 Copa del Rey final proved to be the straw that broke Barça's back with their wild-child, after the feisty Argentine incited a brawl after being on the receiving end of another brutal Goikoetxea tackle.

In front of 100,000 live spectators - including the King of Spain - and half the population watching at home, Maradona head-butted, kneed and elbowed three Bilbao players, which caused a mammoth on-field scrap resulting in over 60 injuries. Suffice to say, he had signed his own death warrant in Catalonia.

And so, with his reputation in tatters, and injury concerns weighing heavy in the minds' of potential suitors, Maradona packed his bags, and headed to Naples in a deal worth around €12m . The first few years with the Serie A side were underwhelming in terms of success, but I Partenopei were building something special.

The 1985/86 campaign ended with Napoli finishing in third place, but belief was growing that this group of players - with Maradona at the helm - could be the first mainland southern Italian team to claim a Serie title.

And so it came to pass in 1987, when Napoli won the Scudetto for the very first time, whilst also lifting the Coppa Italia in the same season. Maradona's status in the city of Naples was almost supernatural. He was no longer seen as a talented footballer, but a God sent to propel his followers to the promised land.

Maradona's men failed to retain the league title the following season - and they missed out in the 1988/89 campaign, too. But they continued to make massive strides as a team, beating Stuttgart in the UEFA Cup final in 1989 to earn their first ever European success.

And so, with Europe now conquered, attention returned to their home soil, where supporters were desperate to see their heroes earn another league title.

Napoli possessed a core of excellent, technically gifted and hard-working players, with local hero Ciro Ferrara providing a fierce presence at the heart of their defence, alongside the ever-dependable Giovanni Francini.

The midfield was full of commanding, committed figures like Alemao and Fernando De Napoli, while the forward line was sprinkled with the stardust of Careca, Andrea Carnevale, and a young Gianfranco Zola.

And then, of course, there was Maradona. The lynchpin, the metronome, the beating heart and wired brain of this entire operation. There's no escaping it. Maradona was Napoli, and Napoli was happy to let him hold the keys to the city.

Napoli carried their good European form into the 1989/90 domestic campaign, going unbeaten in their opening 16 league matches, whilst playing some scintillating football for the San Paolo faithful.

But their good run came to an end at the hands of Lazio, who thumped the title hopefuls 3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico - a scoreline which Milan would later inflict on Maradona and co. in February, blowing the title race wide open.

I Rossoneri possessed one of the most star-studded and fearsome teams in Serie A history, with the likes of Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Carlo Ancelotti, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten in their ranks - to name but a few.

And Milan leapfrogged Napoli at the end of February to steal top spot in Serie A, after Alberto Bigon's men lost 3-1 to Inter, and I Rossoneri pummelled Roma 4-0 at the Olimpico. It looked set to be the turning point in, and Maradona's second miracle seemed in tatters.

But the new leaders slipped up in successive defeats to Juventus and Inter, putting I Partenopei back in contention. And it was on a dramatic day in Bergamo that Napoli took control of the scudetto - and all thanks to a coin-toss.

Milan had drawn 0-0 with Bologna, meaning that a win for Napoli would see them overtake their rivals once again, with only three rounds of the season remaining.

Maradona and his teammates were struggling to unlock a stubborn Atalanta defence, but the decisive moment arrived in the 75th minute. La Dea supporters began throwing missiles from the stands towards their opponents, and a coin struck Napoli midfielder Alemao on the head.

The Brazilian hit the floor, and after receiving treatment for his injury, he was promptly substituted. The match ended 0-0, but due to a rule which was in place during that era, Napoli were able to appeal the result due to the crowd trouble, and they were awarded a 2-0 win instead.

Just imagine the uproar if that was allowed to stand in the modern game.

But those were the rules, and Napoli never looked back once they were handed this reprieve. They won their final three fixtures - and in doing so, they became champions of Italy for only the second time. Maradona also finished the season on 16 goals - and went on to become the club's leading goalscorer.

As always however, good things must come to an end, and in typical fashion, the Napoli - Maradona love story came crashing down in controversial and bitter circumstances. Failed drug tests, fall-outs with the local mafia, and causing a nationwide rift at World Cup 1990 were the catalyst behind the Argentine's hasty departure from Naples - just the usual, then.

But despite the heartbreak, Maradona is still loved like no other in Naples, with the number 10 shirt since being retired in his memory - and in remembrance of the greatest period in the club's wonderful history.