The memory of Diego Maradona will hover, this Thursday (6.45 p.m.), over the Europa League shock between FC Barcelona and Naples, the two clubs where the Argentine legend who died in November 2020 was revealed and then shone with a thousand lights.
The Napoli stadium, where the second leg will take place on February 24, is now named after the idol of the southern Italian city.
Two statues of the former N.10 were inaugurated there last fall, as part of the commemorations of the first anniversary of his death.
Neapolitan players have also played a few matches this season wearing collector’s shirts bearing the face of “D10S” (the nickname mixing “Dios”, God in Spanish, and the 10).
Maradona played for Napoli for seven years (1984-1991), a period marked by excesses of all kinds but also the only Italian championship titles in the club’s history (1987, 1990).
With Maradona, Naples also won the Italian Cup (1987) and shone on the European scene by winning the UEFA Cup in 1989, the ancestor of the current Europa League.
Before Naples, where he had been welcomed by a delirious crowd in the summer of 1984 in what was then the San Paolo stadium, it was in Barcelona that the young Diego had discovered European football and began to show his technical qualities outside. standards.
“It’s God over there”
The Argentinian had landed there in 1982 from Boca Juniors a few weeks after playing on the lawn of Camp Nou his very first match in the World Cup.
Having not won as much in Barcelona as in Naples (a Spanish Cup), the fault in particular of several injuries, he is undoubtedly not as adored in Catalonia as in Campania.
But many supporters had also gathered at the announcement of his death, on November 25, 2020, at the age of 60.
Barça also paid tribute to him by playing a friendly match against Boca Juniors in Saudi Arabia last December as part of a “Maradona Cup”. This is the first time the two clubs have met.
Naples and Barcelona have already had the opportunity to do battle: it was in the round of 16 of the Champions League, during the 2019-2020 season.
The first leg took place in Naples (1-1) in February 2020, the return only in August, after the suspension of competitions due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a qualification of the Blaugranas at home (3-1).
“The memory I have of Naples is Diego Maradona, and everything he managed to win there … It’s God, there”, had summarized before this double confrontation Guillermo Amor, former Barça player who was at the time director of institutional relations of the Catalan club.