The Holy Trinity Of Football Conjurors Of The 80s
When football was still free from the clutches of commercial influence in the 80s, a triumvirate of magicians lit up the world stage and the Italian Serie A. Dhrubajyoti Ghosh analyses the achievements of this Holy Trinity of football and how their impact off the field was as path-breaking as their magic on it.
Back then long time ago when grass was green,
Woke up in a daze
Arrived like strangers in the night
(Fab! Doot, doot, doot doo)
Long time ago when we was fab
George Harrison’s mystical lyrics serve as a nostalgic reflection of Beatlemania, and is representative of wistfulness for great times gone by. What the Fab Four did to music in the 60s, a troika of midfield generals did to world soccer in the 80s. Further, this was done in the then-most competitive global league, Serie A. This article delves into the careers of this Holy Trinity Of football—Arthur Antunes Coimbra, Diego Armando Maradona, and Michel François Platini as well as their continued adulation, long after retirement.
Holy Trinity of Football
The 80s and 90s were fascinating times for Italian soccer, when the Serie A was the benchmark for all leagues to follow. Throughout that period, Serie A was considered to be by far the “wealthiest”, most competitive and the strongest of football leagues, attracting the world’s best. Legendary teams, e.g., the Dutch troika-led AC Milan (rivals Inter fielded an equally famous German trio), a Maradona-inspired Napoli, or a Platini-driven Juventus were considered amongst the very best. However, the start of the 80s wasn’t rosy. The decade began with two paradigm shifts in Italian football—the opening up of the game to foreign players and a betting scandal, Totonero, that rocked the nation. Serie A was embroiled in turmoil, with some clubs ending up demoted. However, the influx of foreign players in Italy’s football was a game changer that helped change perceptions and evolved the game. Football became more exciting with the mandate of two foreigners per team from the 82–83 season. Additionally, Italy’s national team winning the World Cup also motivated the world’s best to play there. Within a few years Serie A boasted of Platini, Falcao, Zico, Rummenigge, Diego, Socrates, Laudrup, Boniek, Krol, Francis, Passarella, and many more, followed by the Dutch and German trios in Milan. Italy had transformed into THE quintessential soccer paradise, with its clubs winning competitions galore on the world stage. European and Intercontinental Cups were won multiple times over. From 1989 to 1998, in every season except one, an Italian club was involved in the final of the European Cup.
Juventus, with Platini at the helm of affairs, dominated the first part of the 80s with a great duel with Roma, where Falcao, the 8th King of Rome, pulled strings leading them to winning the 82–83 championship. However, Maradona and Napoli then stole the show for the second half of the 80s. In between, in 84–85 Hellas Verona surprised everyone winning the Scudetto. They had not been known previously for their football pedigree, everyone knew them rather, for being from the city of “Romeo and Juliet”. By the end of the decade, another incredible team started making history and is arguably considered to be one of the best club teams of all time—AC Milan. With such an exciting footballing ecosystem, it was no wonder that “all roads led to Rome”, and Italy soon became home to football’s global superstars. However, the Holy Trinity’s road to success in Italy was not entirely smooth, and made, at times, under strange circumstances.
King Arthur, ZICO
often called “White Pelé”, was an out-and-out Flamengo boy, the main architect of Flamengo’s golden generation. He won multiple Brasileiro SérieA and Carioca titles before finally leading the team to its crowning glory in 1981, winning both the Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cups. Zico created goals in all imaginable ways, was a great playmaker, assister, and team organizer known for his excellent vision on field. He was a two-footed player and one of the best free-kick exponents of his time. Long before the FIFA World Player of the Year award was instituted, Zico became the undisputed World Player of the Year for his exploits in 1981, a feat which he repeated again in 1983. The decimation of mighty Liverpool in the 1981 Intercontinental Cup final ranks as one of his greatest performances. The world had finally, albeit belatedly, come to terms with his prodigious talent. It was an era when, unlike today, very few leading players from South America went to Europe for glory or money. Powerhouses like Italy, Spain or England had still not opened up to a player exodus from South America. Besides, the standards of leagues in Brazil and Argentina were still as good as any in the world, and the players were not motivated enough to leave for another continent. Hence, Europe and Italy had to wait until 1983, when Zico finally made a move at the ripe old age of 30.
Zico received offers from powerhouses Roma and Milan, but a lucrative $4 million proposal from Udinese turned heads. The Italian Football Federation blocked the transfer expecting financial guarantees, which caused a commotion with Udinese fans protesting against them and the federal government. Historical and political reasons would have them shout “O Zico, o Austria!” (“Either Zico or Austria”). The city of Udine, bordering neighbour Austria and occupied by them as “recently” as the First World War, actually threatened to “sell” itself to them, and only after parliamentary questions and interventions was the matter sorted out. Zico finally arrived triumphantly in Udine, making the Friuliani dream of better days.
In his first season in Italy in 1983-84, Zico almost took Udinese to great heights, gaining respect from giants Juventus and Roma. His free kicks caused such an impact that experts on Italian TV would debate endlessly on how to stop them. Udinese, a usual mid-table team suddenly jumped up to third place in the league, with Zico scoring at will. However, Zico met with an injury mid-season, which hampered Udinese immensely and they ended the season in ninth position, just five points behind the third place. Udinese scored almost twice as many goals as the previous season, thanks to Zico whose personal goal-scoring duel against Platini was truly exciting. Zico scored 19 goals, just one less than top-scorer Michel, having played four matches less than the Frenchman due to injury. Additionally, he was voted World Player of the Year in 1983. Zico became an instant favorite with his spectacular goals and is adored by the Friulani even today. His following season would be punctuated by injuries again. Additionally, the lack of a better squad, which made the team heavily dependent on him, burnt him out faster. He often complained of the board’s lack of ambition for not signing competitive players, which was largely responsible for his early exit from Italy. Zico delivered an amazing display against Maradona’s Napoli, his last match, and returned to Flamengo, sponsored by a group of companies.
However, Zico’s finest yet most tragic hour came while sporting the canary yellow jersey. Zico was a leader of the magical 1982 team, which wooed the world but unfortunately lost a decisive match—the best team never to have won the World Cup. Brazil’s game exhibited flicks, tricks, and sublime footwork, exquisite passing, magical off-the-ball play, dummies sold, turns and body feints and what not, all at a blistering free-flowing, one-touch pace. This was soccer at its very best, a magical opera being orchestrated by Zico. He scored four goals and created/ assisted in four more. His thunderous, acrobatic, scissor-kick from Leandro’s cross at that apex level left one spellbound. You would try to score a similar goal with friends at school, but would usually end up in bruises. Another famous goal was one that he created for captain Socrates in the crunch match against Italy, after Brazil had gone one down. Receiving the ball in the midfield, Zico, with an incredible Cruyff-turn, flummoxed the rash and brash Claudio Gentile, and then threaded a defence-splitting, inch-perfect return pass to Socrates, who beat the legendary Dino Zoff for the equalizer. It was a moment of class and vision that highlighted just how gifted the Brazilian was. Unfortunately, callous defending, when they just had to play out time to force the draw needed to reach the semis, meant that the magical side would bow out and Zico would not lay his hands on the coveted trophy. It was the greatest irony that ever was, to have dominated the tournament, yet losing while dishing out a positive and attacking brand of soccer. This is almost in the same vein as the “Magical Magyars” in 1954 or the “Clockwork Oranje’ in 1974.
By the time the next edition of this tournament was played, Zico was back at Flamengo, having suffered a career-threatening knee injury. He still featured in the squad sporadically as Brazil reached the quarterfinals, meeting another title challenger, France, with Platini at the helm of affairs. Zico came out in the second half and immediately produced a defence-splitting pass to Branco, who was fouled in the box. Straight penalty ! A confident Zico, usually successful with penalties, had his kick saved by goalkeeper Joel Bats. Like the previous World Cup, this, too, was a turning point in the tournament for Brazil, who eventually lost the match. Zico retired from international football after that but continued his exploits at the club level, taking Flamengo to yet another national title in 1987. He retired from professional football in 1989, but, after a hiatus of two years, accepted an offer to join Sumitomo Metal Industries Football Club in Kashima for the impending J. League. Zico, a talisman in Japan by then, helped the club, renamed Kashima Antlers, finish runners-up in its inaugural season, cementing its place as one of the league’s elite. Zico helped transform the game in Japan with his discipline, talent, and professionalism and adapted well to the Japanese culture, earning the nickname, “God of Soccer”. This was yet another feather in the legend’s cap, before he slowly turned to coaching in the next decade.
started his pro career at almost the same time as Zico, playing for Nancy throughout the decade and establishing himself as a mainstay of the team by the time of the 1978 World Cup. Before travelling to Argentina, Platini won his first major trophy captaining Nancy and scoring the only goal in the French Cup final against Nice. Drawn in a tough group with hosts Argentina and Italy, France failed to reach the second round, though Platini scored against Argentina. After a long tenure in Nancy, Platini was recruited by Saint-Étienne, who planned to win European tournaments with him. Unfortunately, Michel was unable to surpass the feats of the 1976 team that reached the Euro Cup final. By the summer of 1982, after losing the French Cup final against PSG, Michel transferred to Juventus, in a move that would spur his career to legendary heights. Juventus, a team littered with Italy’s victorious World Cup squad, was a difficult transition to Italian football for Platini, but by the second half of the season, he and his Polish teammate Boniek led a charge which saw an upturn in their fortunes. Juve finished second in Serie A, reached the European Cup final, and won the Italian Cup—the first of its many accolades in the following seasons.
Nestled in between these club transfers was the 1982 World Cup, where France initially stuttered to reach the semis. France was hammered by the English and generally played average football in the first round. Additionally, there was resentment in the ranks with a huge internal problem brewing between the team’s midfield generals, Platini and Jean-François Larios. Larios, an equally talented midfielder, who was Platini’s teammate at St Étienne, was rumoured to be having an affair with his wife Christelle, causing an unbridgeable gap between the once-close friends. The feud escalated and cast a shadow not just over St Étienne’s attempts at the 1982 domestic double, but also the World Cup, where both were expected to play pivotal roles. With the players predominantly siding with the captain, Larios did not get the support he/ the team needed. Legend has it that Platini handed coach Hidalgo a “him or me” ultimatum after the England loss. Larios finally left the team for transfer negotiations with Barcelona, eventually returning to be involved in the third place play-off defeat to Poland, the last time he played for France.
Luckily for them, France’s other challengers in the group faltered worse and, gradually waking up from their stupor, France sailed into the semifinals. The unyielding Germans, who had deployed Machiavellian ways to oust Algeria , were next. The French flair versus German team-spirit would eventually be recipe for one of the most classic matches of all time. With the French on the ascendancy, German keeper Toni Schumacher knocked Patrick Battiston unconscious with a grotesque shoulder charge that left him with two lost teeth, three broken ribs, and back damage. Platini later said that he thought that Battiston was dead, because “he had no pulse and looked pale”. The injury rattled the French and though they lead in extra time, the indefatigable Germans came back and took the game to a shootout, the first in World Cup history, scoring an unlikely victory. It was the ONE defeat that the great 80s French side would never really digest. “If only we had realised how good we were,” Platini was quoted, “we would never have lost the game”. In spite of the loss, France’s football revolution under Platini had finally begun.
When France hosted the 1984 European Championship, they were the title favourites in the absence of Italy, undergoing a transition. This tournament turned out to be Platini’s personal crowning glory, as he captained France to success in a first international major. His individual impact was huge—scoring nine of France’s 14 goals, bagging the top goal-scorer award, and stamping his talent on the world stage. The Euro 84 tournament also saw the coming of age of France’s “carré magique”—the magic square—four skillful and technical midfielders who complemented each other’s strengths, e.g., Jean Tigana and Luis Fernández in defensive midfield roles acting as deep-lying playmakers, Alain Giresse in the wings and Platini as the playmaker dictating the game behind the strikers. It was a system that proved hypnotic, with a fluidity that took your breath away. Unfortunately, with France’s shock loss to Germany in the 86 World Cup semis, retirement beckoned for some and signaled the end of one of the best midfield quartets the game has ever seen.
While Michel continued to excel at the world stage, the real advancement of his game was coming in Serie A with Juventus. While he lost out on the coveted European Cup in 82–83 to Hamburg, he led the Old Lady to the Italian Cup in his first season. He was the pivot who led Juventus to Serie A titles in 1984 and 1986, plus continental trophies like the Cup Winners’ Cup and the Super Cup in 1984. The elusive European Cup was won in 1985, when his lone goal took Juventus to victory over Liverpool at Heysel Stadium in Brussels. However, this victory was marred by the horrific deaths of 39 fans from a pre-game stampede. Platini was criticized for celebrating his goal, a contentious penalty, though he insisted the players didn’t understand the magnitude of the day’s events. He was also the “capocannoniere” in Serie A and Ballon D’or-winner for three successive seasons from 1983 to 1985 (neither Zico nor Maradona were eligible by rules to participate). Additionally, Platini was the World Player of the Year in 1984 and 1985. After the Mexico World Cup, Platini spent another season at Juventus before retiring from football in 1987. His five-year spell at Juve had seen him win all possible silverware and dominate European football. He had classic duels with Zico in the earlier part of his stint and with Maradona in the latter. The three leading trequartistas dominated Serie A during its golden era and created an ecosystem rarely seen again in league football.
Unfortunately, “Le Roi” couldn’t replicate his league success in the World Cup. While France entered the 1986 World Cup as a firm favourite, Platini, suffering from a groin injury, was not in peak shape. Nonetheless, he contributed two important goals, the first in defeating defending champions Italy and the second in a pulsating quarter-final match against Brazil, one of the best matches to be played in the history of World Cup. Unfortunately, after that grueling match, fatigue, both mental and physical, had taken over, and for a second successive World Cup, France bowed out to West Germany in the semi-final to finally settle for the third place after beating Belgium. Platini would never be able to accept these World Cup defeats, and once pointed out at the twilight of his career that “If a WC tournament had been held every year between 1982 and 1986, France would have won two or three”. After retiring from football, Platini went into coaching and later into administration, culminating in a UEFA presidency in 2007.
“El Pibe de Oro”
the Golden Boy, is a sobriquet that has stuck with Maradona all his life. The precocious talent, sought-after by multiple premier clubs his entire career, is the only player in history to set the world record for transfer fee twice. Though he played for Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell’s Old Boys, it was his time in Serie A that cemented his place as one of the best in the game’s history. Diego, a child prodigy, was unfortunately left out of the 1978 home World Cup by Coach Cesar Menotti, who felt that the 17-year old was still raw. Maradona vented his ire by winning the World Youth Cup the very next year, along with the Golden Ball. Post his success in the Youth World Cup, Diego made a transfer to his beloved Boca Juniors, earning his first and only league championship medal in Argentina—the 1981 Metropolitano. He duly scored in both his debut as well as his debut derby against bitter rivals River Plate. Ready to rock the 1982 World Cup (this time with the senior national team), Diego, with his impending world record transfer to Barcelona, had the whole of Catalonia waiting with bated breath to see his magic. However, Maradona underperformed and Argentina had a forgettable World Cup. In the second round, Argentina was defeated by Brazil and eventual-champions Italy in a proverbial group of death. It did not help that he was aggressively hounded and repeatedly fouled by the likes of Claudio Gentile, and in the final match against arch-rivals Brazil, lost his cool to earn a red card after kicking Batista.
At Barcelona, Maradona was soon joined by coach Menotti, leading the team to Copa del Rey and Super Cup titles in the 82–83 season. But before that, he created history in a Copa de la Liga El Clásico. Dribbling past Madrid keeper Agustín, as he approached an empty goal, Diego stopped for a second as defender Juan José came sliding in (desperate to block the shot but ending up crashing into the post), before sidestepping Juan to slot the ball into an empty net, humiliating the Madrid defence. No one had done that in the Bernabéu before and the packed stadium was stunned to silence before starting to applaud, an honorable first. Unfortunately, Diego could not fulfil his early promise due to illness, injuries, and myriad controversies with his management. An ill-timed tackle by Bilbao’s “butcher” Andoni Goikoetxea caused a broken ankle that threatened to jeopardize his career. Finally, a “kickboxing contest” in the 83–84 Copa del Rey final drove the final nail in his Barcelona coffin. Diego didn’t get the backing of referees like today’s superstars, or else he could have been a superhit in Spain too. He transferred out to Napoli at a world-record fee in the summer of 1984.
Very similar to Zico, Maradona finalised not with a top-tier but a mid-table team, Napoli, who had never won a Scudetto and had just about saved relegation in their last campaign. However, with 75,000 fans welcoming him at the Stadio San Paolo, Neapolitans were convinced that their savior had arrived. It was providence that El Diego reached the peak of his career in Naples and catapulted them to their most successful era in history. With his mates, Maradona quickly displaced Juve’s stranglehold on Serie A, before leading Napoli to their first-ever Scudetto in 1986–87. Leaving aside the exploits of Cagliari in 69–70, it was the first time that a team from mainland south had won and the celebrations were unbridled. It was a period when North–South tensions in Italy were at a peak due to various reasons, notably economic differences. Naples went wild with continuous festivities, street parties, carnivals, etc. running over a week. A new empire was born and Diego was its emperor. Murals of Maradona were painted on ancient buildings and newborn children were named in his honour. Neapolitans famously said that they might not have the best jobs, luxury apartments, or lifestyles compared to big cities in Italy, but they had Maradona. The next two seasons saw Napoli narrowly missing out, finishing runners to first Milan and then Inter. However, Diego was THE refreshing influence and Napoli would win their second league title in 1989–90—another World Cup year. In the interim, Napoli won their maiden European crown with the 1989 UEFA Cup besides Coppa Italia and Italian Supercup titles.
While Maradona was responsible for the metamorphosis of the Napoli football club and the city of Naples at large, he would reach the apex of his game and fame at the Mexico 1986 World Cup. Like Zico in the earlier version, Diego was the most enterprising and dominant player of the 86 World Cup, scoring five goals and making five assists, stamping his authority on almost every match. After cruising through the group phase and eliminating bitter neighbors Uruguay, Argentina set up a mouth-watering quarterfinal against England. The backdrop of Falklands War between Argentina and the UK lent additional nuance to the match. Argentina was desperate to win and the master scored two goals, which are etched in football history forever. The first was the infamous “Hand of God”, where he fisted the ball over the head of a much-taller Peter Shilton, hoodwinking the match officials. Minutes later, he “hoodwinked” football fans across generations when he scored what is arguably accepted as one of THE best goals ever and voted by FIFA as the greatest goal in World Cup history. Receiving the ball in his own half, Diego swiveled around and wove his way around more 60 metres, taking 11 touches in 13 seconds, at breathtaking speed, and false footing five to six opponents. Moving with silken grace, he slotted the goal past an awe-struck English team and millions glued to their television sets across the world.
Maradona followed this encore with two more eye-pleasing goals in the semis against Belgium, including another virtuoso dribbling display for the second. Argentina were in their second final in eight years and only a resolute German team, who had conquered a tired France, stood between them and glory. Germany applied a double pivot and heavily marked Maradona, but with the game delicately poised at 2–2 and nearing end of regulation time, Diego found space past three German challengers to give a telling pass to Jorge Burruchaga for the winner. The coronation of the king was complete. Maradona went on to win the tournament’s Golden Ball and it is still debated that he almost single-handedly won the World Cup for Argentina in this beautiful team game. It was the end of a fascinating calendar year for Diego, when he was also awarded the World Player of the Year award, which fellow Serie A compatriots Zico and Platini had won for the last three years.
Maradona continued his exploits in Naples till his “home” World Cup in Italy came calling. Playing with an injury, he was much less dominant than Mexico and Argentina were plain lucky to qualify for the second round as one of the best third-placed teams. Then, in one of his best displays in that World Cup, Diego conjured a Houdini Act to win the game for his country against eternal rivals Brazil, who dominated and should have wrapped up the game in the first half itself. Next came the Brazil of Europe, Yugoslavia, who were vanquished in the quarters and quietly, the football God had ensured that Diego would grace his “hometown” Naples where the semifinal was slated with hosts Italy. Ever the showman, Dieguito tried to maneuver, influence, and divide the national loyalty among Neapolitan fans in this game. Maradona tried reminding Neapolitans that they are often regarded as southerners or even foreigners by the northern industrial and political power in Italy. Some fans might indeed have suffered from conflicting twitches, but in the end, the vast majority of Naples did root against Maradona and for Italy. The match was edge-of-the-seat stuff and again went to penalties. In the end, the heroics of GK Sergio Goycochea ensured that Argentina reached the finals. Against all odds, Argentina, who should have been ousted in the first round, had scraped through to the finals and the fairytale was set for a perfect ending. A second successive World Cup victory would have ensured eternal greatness for Diego and his band. Unfortunately, luck did run out in a repeat of the 1986 final, with Germany winning by a solitary Andreas Brehme penalty in the 85th minute, after a controversial foul on Rudi Völler.
Back in Serie A, Diego’s phenomenal success was tempered by personal problems—mainly drug usage. His overuse of cocaine and suspicions of alleged friendship with the Camorra would make life jittery for him. In 1991, Diego tested positive for a cocaine drug test, and, serving a 15-month ban, left Napoli in disgrace. Later, however, in honour of the achievements of his Napoli career, his No. 10 jersey was officially retired.
Even though Zico and Platini started their careers earlier than Maradona, the peaks of all three coexisted with each other. After Pele’s retirement, Brazil needed another icon, and Zico slowly stepped into that slot. As explained earlier, Zico (and other Brazilians of his time) didn’t need to step out of Brazil for various reasons, and hence, did not have enough time and opportunity to showcase his exploits in Europe, which was an absolute trigger for proverbial glory from the 80s onwards. It can be arguably said, that had either (or both) of the Brazilian teams annexed the World Cup in 82 or 86, which could realistically have happened, Zico would have been in the same pedestal as a Diego or a Pele, especially if it were 86 as Diego would have missed out on the elusive World Cup. The same could be said about Platini, if he had taken France to a World Cup victory in either 82 or 86, which, again, could realistically have happened. In the end, it is sad that neither Zico nor Platini get the credit they deserve, especially when compared to some of the players of yesteryears or the present day.
Zico had four goals and four assists in 1982, a tournament where he was arguably the best player. Diego scored five and assisted five (something no other player has done in a World Cup), and contributed to everything that Argentina did right in Mexico. Michel did not have such a brilliant individual World Cup track record, but he captained and almost single-handedly won the Euro 84 for France. That was the highlight of his international career, where he scored nine times in five games. Free-kicks, diving headers, combination play, long-range shooting—he appeared to score every time he attempted to. France had never won anything in international football, either club or at the national team level, before this triumph and it was therefore, a very special victory. In the end, all three were the orchestrators of their respective national teams in the 80s and ensured that their teams dished out attractive soccer and pleased the fans enormously, irrespective of whether they won or lost.
Maradona was unable to beat Zico in any match, be it Udinese vs Napoli, Flamengo vs Boca Juniors, much less Brazil vs Argentina. Platini trumped Zico on the world stage, but the honours were even in Serie A. And when Platini and Maradona played, it was usually the Argentine who came up trumps. In the end, there was very little to distinguish between these artists. But with reference to Serie A, where Maradona and Zico scored was that they took over the reins of middle-tier clubs where they became visionaries, leaders, and change agents. The clubs looked up to them to bring in change and transform their roadmaps to be top challengers in the long run. These were extremely challenging assignments, almost game changers for their new clubs, away from the comfort of a top tier club which they could have easily pursued. In his very short Udinese career, Zico created magic for the Zebrette. In his first season, halfway through, Zico took the club to the third spot, until he got injured and Udinese slumped. And if Udinese would have ended in the top three and found a way to play in Europe, it should have ushered a new beginning for the Friuliani. Zico left Udinese a legend and when he retired in 1989, decided to pay tribute to Udine, playing his farewell match for Brazil against a World All-Stars team at Stadio Friuli.
After Maradona transferred out of Barcelona, having completed two volatile years, many thought he would join another big club. But Diego surprised everyone by joining a relatively modest club from south Italy, who had just about avoided relegation the previous season. That Napoli could acquire him at a world record price, spoke volumes of their passion and vision. And Diego, who perhaps shunned a big club/ city after the relative histrionics at Barca, would create footballing history by putting Naples on the global map. Napoli, with Maradona orchestrating, quickly displaced Juventus from the top of the charts and became Serie A champions just three summers after Diego has stepped in. It was an unfathomable dream-come-true for the people of Naples. Usually derided by the northerners owing to cultural and economic differences, this was catharsis for the Neapolitans and a larger southern Italy. They could now hold their heads high up and started earning the respect they so deserved in their country. Diego, unbeknownst to him, had united the downtrodden and given them confidence, in the process turning into a cultural, social, and borderline religious icon, which stretched beyond the realms of football. He had not only managed to take a diffident Napoli football club to the very top of Italy, but, in the process, gave the people of Naples and a larger southern Italy the veneration they lacked. This, in my book, was his greatest triumph.
Unlike these two, however, Platini, who joined the might of Juventus, had his own set of problems adjusting in a team spoilt with world champions. However, once he acquired the leadership position, the team whose performance was also average to start with, turned around and began an era of dominance in Italy in the first half of the 80s. Michel won three back-to-back Serie A highest scorer and Ballon D’or titles and was twice the World Player of the Year, while leading Juventus to two Scudettos and two second place finishes. After his final Serie A match against Brescia in 1987, Platini famously said, “I played for Nancy because it was my hometown club and the best in Lorraine, for Saint-Étienne because it was the best team in France, and for Juventus because it is the best team in the world!”
The memoirs of Zico, Platini and Maradona, and their resplendent careers will be stuff of legend to football fans across generations as long as the beautiful game exists. But what these three football maestros did in the 80s while plying their trade in the world’s best league was sheer romance and would live in the memories of every football fan forever. Blessed to have witnessed these magicians conjure magic, “Long time ago when they was fab”.