In the confusing coastal city looking West towards the Tyrrhenian Sea and where Pompeii’s outcry, the volcano Vesuvius, rises dangerously to the East, are people who are in love with the game of football. This city is Naples. Naples had not won any titles upon Maradona’s arrival in 1984.

An engineer and builder from Calabria, Corrado Ferlaino becomes president of Naples on January 18, 1969, after taking the position from Achille Lauro. Under Lauro’s management, Napoli won close to nothing and the team wasn´t consistently in the first division, but Lauro built up a huge fan-base in Naples. Ferlaino burned the competition and convinced the former president to choose him. Ferlaino was extremely passionate about the club, this was the main reason he was chosen as the president. Ferlaino´s Napoli in the 70s had some good seasons with top 5 placements in the league. This wasn´t enough to fulfil the engineer from Calabria’s heart. He was to win a Scudetto (Serie A title) and the team in 1982 was really good with the likes of Ruud Krol, Claudio Vinazzani, Giuseppe Bruscolotti and Massimo Palanca. The team ended in 4th, but this team would collapse the season after and fight for survival in Serie A until 1984. Being in a slump after 1982, Ferlaino was desperate to make Napoli great and get Napoli´s first Scudetto.

Meanwhile in Barcelona, the world best player at the time in Diego Armando Maradona was desperate to leave FC Barcelona after having many troubles with the club as well as injuries. Maradona had plenty of problems with his behaviour on and off the pitch at Barcelona. Barcelona knew he had a big cocaine problem at the time, but Maradona wasn´t gonna stop. Maradona on the pitch was many times in fights, but sometimes with good reason because of the brutality of the tackles on him. The two seasons at Barca weren’t full with trophies, he only got a Copa Del Rey.

To already deny the myth of him being bad at Barcelona, you can look at his goal ratio for central offensive midfield. Maradona scored 22 goals in 36 games which normally would only be one season for most players, but it was in 2 seasons for him. When playing in Barcelona there was no doubt that he was the best player on the pitch. He was brought in for a then world record fee of £5 million ($7.6 million). Many teams were going crazy after seeing Diego Maradona available on the market. Juventus fancied Maradona. Napoli´s president Corrado Ferlaino was hearing this and liked the idea of outbidding their rivals from Turin. The main reason why Ferlaino wanted this transfer more than anything was to show economic independence from the Italian establishment. Ferlaino was also getting more unpopular with the ultras. The ultras were putting banners up with “Ferlaino away, Juliano back”. This was referring to the former Napoli player Juliano who later would become the president. Ferlaino saw buying Maradona as a declaration of a new superpower in the south and a stick to the north.

To get a better understanding of Italy football, must we understand how the economy works in Italy. Italy is divided into two parts economically. The north was and always had been far richer than the south. The south has always been full of corruption and the Mafia had the control of the south. The north saw the south as deniability for them. The problem between the north and the south was so big that during Diego’s time in Italy several political parties campaigned for northern independence.

The transfer was so close to not happening. It was deadline day (Friday, June 29). All new transfers had to register in Milano at the Italian league authorities. Ferlaino had sent his employee to deliver an envelope containing three names, but none of them with the name of Diego Armando Maradona. When it was Monday was there only 1 name in the envelope and it was Diego Armando Maradona. This couldn´t happen without someone switching the envelopes. The big question was who could have the power to do it. Everything was pointing at the Neapolitan Mafia, better known as the Camorra. There are rumors that they had even contributed to the transfer fee.

In any case, the transfer happened and the fee was US$10.48m (world record transfer fee). Diego Maradona was seen as a saviour upon his arrival. Many newspapers said this “the sun has finally risen above Naples”. The whole city was shut down because their savior would arrive in San Paolo. San Paolo was full with 75.000 people ready to welcome him.


Serie A at that time was dominant by the north in Juventus, AC Milan and Internazionale. Teams from South of the Italian Peninsula had ever won the prestigious Scudetto. That would now all change because of the little Argentinean.

Maradona made a promise about winning a title to his teammates and this made new hope for them. The first season of Maradona at Naples wasn´t disappointing from his side. Maradona had 14 goals, but Maradona didn´t like the coach because the team wasn´t built around him, which ended with Ferlaino firing Rino Marchesi (coach at the time). The replacement had to be approved by Maradona. Maradona was demanding the team to be built around him, which Ottavio Bianchi wanted to do. Maradona had also a weird relationship with Ferlaino, one day they were best friends and the other day they were hating each other.

The second season of Maradona was much better with a new coach and new structure. Napoli ended 3rd this season and the big teams in the north were getting scared. Due to Roma’s collapse in the final rounds of the season, Napoli closed to within two points of second place while also having a significant margin to Torino in fourth. Maradona had more of a playmaking role on the team but was still the best goal scorer as well. Giordano had an amazing season with 10 goals. Ciro Ferrara wasn´t yet the first choice in defense. This season ended and Maradona was in top form going into the 1986 World Cup.

Diego Maradona came home to Naples as a World Champion and showed everyone the greatest World Cup performance of all time. Napoli fans were getting more impatient with Ferlaino which was the reason why they started spending money. Maradona was also constantly making drama with Ferlaino about literally everything. He was not yet seen as a savior, but this would soon change. Going to the 55th edition of the Serie A in September 1986 Napoli was seen as one of the favorites because of D10S and a better supporting cast. However, there were also teams that would be seen as stronger than Napoli without Maradona. If we took Maradona off the Napoli team, they would be in the middle of the table at best probably. They still had players that top teams would want in Ferrera and De Napoli mostly, but Napoli was an average team without Diego Maradona and that´s just a fact in 1986-87. Overall, there were better teams than Napoli like: Juventus,Inter,Milan,Hellas Verona and Roma.

10 May 1987 was the final day, Napoli mathematically conquered its first Serie A title after a draw 1-1 at the San Paolo against Fiorentina with goals from Carnival and Roberto Baggio. This allowed the Azzurri to maintain the advantage of four points on Inter and Juventus one day from the end, a gap that nobody could catch anymore.

Diego Maradona ended as top scorer for Napoli with 10 goals and if I count it right had he 10 assists and there were also plenty of goals he made the key pass to. Napoli scored 41 goals and conceded 21 goals in 30 games.

Diego Maradona was the complete superstar with being the perfect leader and the perfect player. Maradona´s leading ability is an underrated trait he had. Being a leader and make his teammate them much better is many times underrated by people talking about him today. His leadership and his ability to be unmarkable is what made Napoli win the title. His teammates have said that every game Maradona was man-mark by the best defender, but Maradona still made wonders. This is why Diego Armando Maradona won the league with Napoli. This achievement might never come again.

“I’ve never seen such things. In training, during warmups, I’ve never seen anyone else do those things. Unfortunately, what us team-mates saw the crowd couldn’t see. You realize that what you saw during the week was unrepeatable.”
-Francesco Romano

The sun rose above San Paolo for the first time in their history on the second-last game of the season. This was the first time in their history they won the league, but Maradona wasn´t done he took another trophy in the Copa Italia. They won the final with no problems against Atalanta with winning 4-0 on aggregate. This was Napoli 3rd Copa Italia in their history. Diego Armando Maradona was official a savior in Naples, he did the impossible with an average team. The whole of Italy was admiring Diego Maradona´s achievement. Honestly, every game was he the best player on the pitch, it was incredible. Naples was shut down for days to celebrate Napoli’s achievement and mostly thank Diego. Naples made Diego Armando Maradona an honorary citizen. This team was called o´Miracolo (The miracle). Naples was a religious city and baptized Maradona the Messiah of football.

Here are photos of celebrations in Napoli back in 1987:

SPORT 25 anni dal primo scudetto vinto dal Napoli di Maradona.
Nella foto l’esultanza del popolo e la festa in città, 10 maggio 1987.
Newfotosud Sergio Siano


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