It’s the story of a transfer that has made a whole generation fantasize. Maradona at OM! An urban legend? A wooden rumor? Not even. In the summer of 1989, the Argentine could well have left Naples for Marseille. Diego even saw himself already living near Cassis.

By Pierre Sankowski with Damien Jeannes and Rico Rizzitelli
Sunday October 3Modified Sunday 3 October at 10:45

“Maradona in Marseille? ” This is what we discover with joy / amazement in the transfer section of The team, at the dawn of the 1989/1990 season with that famous question mark that makes you dream, from counters to playgrounds. The news quickly made the rounds of the media, who began to dream of a Waddle-Papin-Francescoli-Maradona attack, you surprise me. OM deny it a bit at the beginning, then not at all after a few days. “Maradona, it’s a gift” , even confided Tapie, with the arrogance we know him. Michel Hidalgo, then sporting director of the club, was seen on the side of Naples, and not just to make a calzone. It was he who, one morning in the spring of 1989, would have proposed the idea of ​​genius to a Tapie in full conquest. In any case, this is what he confirms today. “It’s simple, we were looking for” the “player who would take OM to a new level. And at that time, “the” player was Maradona. We knew he was no longer 100% happy with his club, information had leaked out. Tapie drove off, told me it wasn’t about the money, and offered to take his private plane to meet Maradona at his home in Naples. On an airliner, we would have been spotted right away. ”

Reached by phone, Bernard Tapie did not wish to speak on the subject with the discretion that we know him: “The transfer of Maradona, you certainly know more than I do, man!” And then football, it was another life, eh, go bye ” and he hangs up. Fortunately, there is this good old Hidalgo. “Chez Maradona, it was a good house, but not the house we imagined. There were still two Ferraris, I remember. He had just had a baby girl, and he was having his picture taken with her for Argentinian newspapers. Very kindly, he made me wait. He came to see me every quarter of an hour: “I’m sorry, Mr. Hidalgo, I’m yours right now.” In the evening we went to dinner with three of his friends. I told him that he was expected in Marseille, that he would have a magnificent villa in Cassis, by the sea, with a swimming pool and a large garden. I had learned from his agent that he couldn’t stand his house in Naples, in which he felt a little locked up, he told me. That evening, Maradona, in his head, he was in Marseille. But he knew it would be very difficult. He told me that we would have to twist the blow to the president of Napoli, Ferlaino, by making the gesture with his hand. Then we parted. When I left the restaurant, when it was time to say goodbye to me, Maradona spoke to me again about the house in Cassis, something that interested her a lot. “Cassis house, sea, swimming pool, Mr. Hidalgo”, he told me. ”

Tapie returned to the charge in 1992

When Hidalgo returns, Tapie gets involved. A meeting takes place in a hotel in Milan, with Maradona and his emissaries from Napoli, without result. Ferlaino is stubborn. “We knew very quickly that it would not be possible. I believe that Bernard Tapie dragged the story out a bit in the media, because it made talk about the club in Europe and that it was good strategically, to be a club that can afford Maradona ” , explains the former Neapolitan president. Then we no longer hear about Maradona at OM until 1992. Suspended for fourteen months (the coke), he took refuge in Argentina. This time, it’s Tapie who comes back, but Maradona is less hot, although he says from Buenos Aires that he would enjoy playing alongside Rudi Völler. It is above all one of his agents, Marco Franchi, who slows down a little, considering that the matter is basically not very serious.

OM won the Champions League that year, however, Diego’s only title missing. Maradona finally initialed at Sevilla FC, which he left in 1993, still having drug problems. We will then talk, but really not seriously, of PSG or Monaco. It was Fernando Signorini, friend and physical trainer of Dieguito, who confessed between two doors at France Football : “For Diego to regain his lost ambition, he has to find a top club, but without the pressure of the big Calcio or La Liga teams. For that, I would see it well at PSG, even in Monaco … ” He was indeed the only one, Signorini.

By Pierre Sankowski with Damien Jeannes and Rico Rizzitelli
Paper published in the special edition Maradona released in December 2007

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