Remember Diego Maradona’s magical warm-up in the 1989 UEFA Cup semi-final

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Napoli entered the second part of their UEFA Cup semi-final with Bayern Munich in 1989 and tried to protect a 2-0 lead from the first match.

Over 73,000 fans were in Munich for the second round, but before the match had even started, they were treated to football glory by a man who just enjoyed himself and did what he did best for his warm-up.

It was, of course, Diego Armando Maradona.

One of the best ever played the game.

Rest in peace, Diego Maradona. ? pic.twitter.com/TcbkhBZlci

– 90 min (@ 90min_Football) 25 November 2020

It was clean, it was organic, it was Maradona who was just himself. Since his teammates were seen stretching and running to warm up for a decisive match, Maradona had no such plans. Instead, he was like a child on the playground with the ball at his feet, elegantly and carelessly he flicked the ball up and kept it effortlessly in his control.

From knee to knee and then flicking up to his head where the ball simply stuck to him, Maradona would get what was an extremely difficult set of skills to look oh so simple. But it was Maradona after all, and very few could ever replicate some of the things he could do with a football.

With each flick and each dance-like movement, the fans moved just a little closer to the edge of his seat, waiting in anticipation to see what he would do next. And Maradona recognized this – of course he did – raised his hands and clapped to the music as if the arena was his garden before raising the volume of the arena a little more. The smile disappears and he focuses back on his own bubble, the game faces come on and he is back in manipulating the ball with even more unimaginable skill.

Show this to your children. Even in the warm-up, he was fascinating. ? pic.twitter.com/0xyTj0NOpj

– Jake Humphrey (@mrjakehumphrey) November 25, 2020

The way he could have such control when he performed such a skill was fascinating in itself, but what makes it even more captivating is how he could juggle the ball to the beat of the music. His knees come up to meet the ball faster and faster, but not once does he even start to look like he is losing control.

The skill and control in this video of his warm-up is truly remarkable, but the clip also highlights how unique Maradona was in her attitude to playing the game. Antonio Careca is also seen right at the beginning of the video played to the camera, dancing to the music with Maradona. But he returns very quickly to his warm-up – but for the legendary Maradona, this was his way of preparing for a match.

Maradona was one of a kind, he was not like anyone else and it was clear even in the warm-up. While the rest of his teammates stand and stretch out with baggy tops on, Maradona’s sits tight around his chest because he has what appears to be shoelaces tied around his waist.

The steps and adjustments required when juggling the ball in the air the way Maradona did should not be underestimated. But El Pibe de Oro did this while his shoelaces hung loose, ready and waiting to trip him up.

But again, Maradona preferred it this way because he felt more comfortable. This only contributed to the organic nature of his warming and indeed the beauty of it. The way he played football and the unique attitude he had can not be taught or trained, it can only be admired.

In a hugely important game, the expectation was that each player would be focused and mentally ready for the task ahead. But Maradona was never bound by such expectations, and it was his unique style and attitude to the game, mixed with his football intelligence and phenomenal skill, that allowed him to constantly push the boundaries of true excellence.

Soccer mourns the loss of Diego Maradona. ? pic.twitter.com/2Nxl57NhX9

– 90 min (@ 90min_Football) 25 November 2020

Maradona was of course crucial for Napoli to remove Bayern Munich in the semi-finals before continuing to win the final over two rounds against Stuttgart.

No warm-up should really ever be worth rewriting or reflecting on, but Maradona was different and the day before kick-off he had the attention of all fans – whether they were there to support Napoli or Bayern. He was so good that he made the football world put rivalries aside in moments like these, sometimes it’s just a matter of appreciating genuine artistry.

The football world lost the best football player of all time in Diego Armando Maradona last year. As someone who redefined the game with his excellence and gave football fans countless moments – like his warm-up against Bayern – to be amazed at, it is very unlikely that there will ever be someone really like the Argentine again.

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