1988-89 UEFA Cup, the only international title won by Maradona
1988-89 UEFA Cup was the only European title Maradona won in his entire career.
Diego Armando Maradona is considered one of the best football players in history. He had a brilliant career with the Argentine National Team and with the team of his life, Napoli. However, at that time Napoli was a team that was starting to grow and Maradona was the key to Naples becoming a champion city. In total, Maradona won 5 titles with Napoli, 4 Italian titles and 1 international title, the only one he won in his club career. This title was the 1988-1989 UEFA Cup.
In the 1987-88 Serie A, Napoli finished second in the Serie A and because of that, the team qualified for the 1988-89 UEFA Cup. Currently, that tournament, better known as the UEFA Europa League, was played in a group stage, but at that time, they were home-and-away matches. In the round of 32, Napoli faced PAOK FC from Greece. After winning 1-0 at home (a goal by Maradona) and drawing 1-1 away, Napoli qualified for the round of 16 and faced Lokomotive Leipzig from Germany. On this occasion, the Neapolitan team qualified with an overall result of 3-1.
The next rival was FC Girondins de Bordeaux, the last runner-up in the French League. After winning 1-0 away and drawing 0-0 at home, Napoli qualified for the Quarterfinals. From this point, Napoli began to face very difficult rivals. The first of them was Juventus and these matches were possibly the best of the entire tournament. Napoli vs Juventus was one of the most important Italian rivalries at that time. At the Juventus Stadium, the Turin team won 2-0 with a goal from Bruno and an own goal from Corradini. A week later, Maradona and Carnevale tied the series and forced Juventus to play extra time. In the 119th minute, a late goal from Renica caused the San Paolo Stadium to celebrate one of the most important goals in Naples's history. It was a historic triumph due to the rivalry between the south and the north of Italy.
In the semifinals of the tournament, Napoli had to face the powerful Bayern Munich. In the first leg, the Neapolitans easily beat the Germans with goals from Careca and Carnevale. A few days later, the second leg was played at the Olympiastadion in Munich. Interestingly, that match is remembered by all Maradona fans. No one remembers the result or the victory of Napoli, they only remember a scene starring Diego Armando Maradona. During the warm-up, Maradona began to play and play with the ball with the background song, Live is Life by Opus. It is perhaps the most famous warm-up in football history. Also, Maradona had an excellent game that day. He contributed 2 assists for his teammate Careca to score 2 goals. In the end, the match ended up tied 2-2.
Hansi Flick, former Bayern coach and current Germany coach, summed up that game with a sentence published by the official account of the Bavarian team: "That game against Napoli was the game that marked me the most in my career. Maradona was a sensational footballer. After the match, he came up to me and asked if everything was ok. It was incredible!
In the final, Napoli faced Stuttgart. Unlike the current finals, in that tournament the finals were not a single match in a neutral stadium, on the contrary, 2 matches were played, the first leg and the second leg. The first match was played again at the Stadio San Paolo, where Napoli beat the German team 2-1. Maradona with a penalty and Careca gave the team the victory. The defining match was one of the best in the history of this tournament, due to the large number of goals scored. The match ended 3-3, with goals from Alemão, Ferrara and Carega (Maradona provided 2 assists). Thanks to this tie, the team from southern Italy won an international title for the first and only time in its history.
And that could have been Maradona's last game with Napoli, as Olympique de Marseille came very close to signing him. But in the end, the Neapolitan president refused to sell him.