Diego Armando Maradona

Remembering when Diego Maradona played for Tottenham

Jude Summerfield
Diego Maradona playing for Tottenham Hotspur
Diego Maradona playing for Tottenham Hotspur / Getty Images/Getty Images
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When Diego Maradona stopped by at Wembley in 2017 to watch his compatriot Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham face Liverpool, his presence didn't seem particularly believable.

After all, this is a man who transcended all football, whose pure sporting talent was admired by millions across the world.

The legendary Argentine greeted the Wembley masses at half time to a reasonably warm reception - most not forgetting the goals he scored against England at the 1986 World Cup, but also remembering the god-like status and worth placed on him by Pochettino.

After the game, he was seen meeting and greeting first team stars Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris, who were presumably enjoying his company judging by the wide grins on their faces, as well as Pochettino and his coaching staff.

But the story ought to start with Osvaldo Ardiles, the man behind Maradona's improbable sole appearance as a Tottenham player.

Ardiles, a World Cup winner himself in 1978, was due for a testimonial against Inter in May 1986. He had written himself into Tottenham history by helping the club to FA Cup and UEFA Cup success in the early 1980s alongside Ricky Villa. The pair had been signed in 1978 by Spurs manager Keith Burkinshaw.

Ardiles and Maradona before the testimonial
Ardiles and Maradona before the testimonial / Getty Images/Getty Images

Naturally, given the pair played such a massive role in Spurs' success during those times, the bond between north London and Argentina grew. So which Argentine superstar could Ardiles convince to don a pair of Clive Allen's boots for a runaround at White Hart Lane?

Diego Maradona, of course. That May night Tottenham's midfield was made up by Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle, Ardiles and Maradona, but Maradona had barely slept on his way to England as he had played in a World Cup warm-up against Norway.

He didn't disappoint, however. Hoddle gave up his number ten shirt and Allen insisted El Diego wore his new boots rather than the ones he had spent all season in.

What followed is something that will live in Tottenham folklore forever. It may have only been a testimonial, but the greatest player in the world, during whatever era, rarely turns out for a testimonial at Tottenham.

The flicks and tricks were on full display, but Maradona and Ardiles were above everyone's level. The pair had played with each other 11 times previously for Argentina and their connection was clear for all to see.

Tottenham would win the testimonial 2-1 courtesy of goals from Mark Falco and Allen and Maradona said after the fixture he would not expect a hostile reception from England fans if his national side were to face the Three Lions at the 1986 World Cup.

For those England fans, their opinion of the man is probably a little skewed by, y'know, that handball.

But Spurs supporters saw the greatest player ever don their kit with such grace on that 80s summer night and the connection wasn't forgotten just over 30 years later when Maradona sat in on a 4-1 victory over Liverpool at Wembley.

It may have been just one game, but Tottenham have always been a club who pride themselves on playing beautiful and stylish football, and there was no more beautiful or stylish footballer than Diego Maradona.


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