Diego Maradona – a very dry inspection

Alright, so this is a bit odd.

Based on what we did for Pele yesterday, I’ve run the numbers for Diego Maradona.

And they’re surprising.

High level:

With Maradona in the side Argentina were P90, W41, D 29, L20.  Without him they were P97, W43, D34, L20.

Points per 38 games: 64 and 64!

In home games:

P28, W16, D9, L3 with Maradona, P 37, W19, D13, L5 without him.  Points per 38: 77 v 72.  So a bit better with him there.

Away games:

P62, W25, D20, L17 with him, P60, W24, D21, L15 without him. Points 58 v 59.


What does it all mean?

Here’s something. In 1991 Maradona receive d a ban after testing positive for Cocaine.  If we look at the numbers before and after that we see something:

Before the ban:

With Maradona 63 points per 38 games (P79, W36, D24, L19), without him 57 pp38 (P62, W23, D22, L17)

After the ban:

With Maradona 55 pp38 (P11, W5, D1, L5), without 78 pp38 (P35, W20, D12, L3).

Small samples there, but equally, it’s instructive perhaps. Diego Maradona’s lifestyle was famously awful, perhaps his fame and ability meant that he was picked for longer than he should have been?

The other thing that stands out is that while Brazil were clearly a fine side with or without Pele, Argentina are clearly a notch below. We always fear them because of the great players they produce, but are they all that, really?

Another conclusion might be that Pele was an extraordinarily gifted team player, whereas Maradona very much played for himself.  His genius allowed his teams to sometimes reach spectacular heights, but we might surmise that football’s very best sides are those where the team is universally strong and becomes greater than the sum of its parts, and any team over-reliant on one player may be similarly less than itself.

I don’t know. Having started all this being firmly in the Maradona camp I’m now a little uncertain.  The results suggest that Argentina didn’t really suffer when Maradona was absent.  This is piffle to an extent – they’d never have won in 86 had he not been there – but equally the results are the results.

So…. more research needed.

Data sourced from:


10 thoughts on “Diego Maradona – a very dry inspection

  1. Excellent work sir. I like the possibility that “Pele was an extraordinarily gifted team player, whereas Maradona very much played for himself”.

    I loved what I saw of Pele, but have to admit that only amounts to highlights, whereas I never saw Maradona as being as great as everyone else told me he was despite seeing him play quite a bit (on TV still).

    I think it is probably true that I tend to place higher value on players that contribute to the team compare with players that do their own thing.

    What we really need to do is sit down and watch both players in a series of full 90 minute matches which sounds like a pleasant day in an accommodating pub!

    1. Sounds like a plan (on that note I have loads of football DVDs and always fancied setting up some sort of underground football watching club where you’d do exactly what you suggest.. possibility?)

  2. You are absolutely correct to exclude post-1990 maradona. The downhill spiral began after that World Cup and his related bust-up with the Napoli fans. Those numbers don’t really stand out in the way they do for Pele though. What are the pre-1991 home/away splits?

  3. Maradona is the romantics choice. He looked like he should be no where near a football pitch, and his lifestyle left many wondering how he was still alive, never mind taking Argentina and Napoli to the top.

    Pele is always the safe choice, he was a great player, but he just seems to commercial and mainstream. He became the face of football, for lots of money, and is now viewed as more of a corporate figurehead than great footballer in many countries

    For many people, they have only ever seen Pele trying to sell them something, whereas Maradona never wanted anything other than love……and drugs, lots of drugs

  4. You’ve created the blog to dispute Pele’s team genius versus Maradonas individual genius, and found out Pele is a bigger impact player.
    These individual dribblers like Maradona and Garrincha are just this, great ball skills and entertainers largely (Where it paid off for each of them in 1 tournament).
    Pele is the complete team player who lifted sides for well over a decade.
    Lets put it this way, you hypothesise and Pele is playing on the other side to Maradona there would be only one winner, the calm collected genius of Pele.
    Difference in results at club level below (10 years).

    Maradona and not Pele is the myth actually. I’ve got some facts below.

    I#ve analysed 10 years 59-69 of Pele for Santos at Brazils national, Intercontinental and Continetal Level with Maradona League 82-93 in Europe.

    These are for the National, International, Intercontinental Tournaments PELE DOMINATED 59-69

    Rio-Sao Paulo (4 Titles) 59,63,64,66

    National Brazil Title (6 Titles) 61,62,63,64,65,68

    Copa Lpertadores (2 Titles ) 62,63

    Intercontinental (2 Titles) 62,63

    Recopa Intercontinental (1 Title) 68

    15 Titles in 10 Years

    With Pele 139 Games 86 Wins 24 Draws 29 Defeats. Average 1.41 Points Per Game.

    Games in these tournaments without Pele. Rio-SP 6/5/59 Palmeiras 1-2 9/5/59 America 3-4 27/3/60 Palmeiras 0-0 31/3/60 Cornthians 1-2 2/4/60 Flamengo 0-1 7/4/60 America 5-4 14/4/60 Fluminese 2-4 16/4/60 Botafogo 0-3 19/3/61 Portuguesa 3-0 23/3/61 Palmeiras 1-1 29/3/61 Cornthians 0-2 19/4/61 Flamengo 1-5 23/4/61 Botafogo 1-2 29/3/64 Vasco 2-0 5/4/64 Bangu 2-1 11/4/64 Palmeiras 2-1 15/4/64 Portugueasa 2-5 19/4/64 Sao Paulo 4-1 13/3/65 Flamengo 1-1 27/3/65 Sao Paulo 1-3 31/3/65 Palmeiras 1-7 26/2/66 Sao Paulo 2-3 3/3/66 Prtuguesa 2-1 6/3/66 Flamengo 1-1 10/3/66 Fluminese 0-1 13/3/66 Botafogo 1-1 17/3/66 Bangu 4-0 20/3/66 Vasco 5-2 23/3/66 Palmeiras 3-2 27/3/66 Corinthians 0-0

    TACA and TACA DE PRATA National Games (6 Titles with Pele)
    3/3/60 Bahia 1-3 8/9/68 Athletico Paranase 2-3 5/10/69 Cruzeiro 2-3 8/10/69 Internacional 0-3
    29/10/69 America 1-1 26/11/69 Botafogo 0-0

    Copa Libertadores (2 Titles with Pele)

    25/2/62 Cerfo Portero 1-1 8/7/62 Universidad Cataoica 1-1 12/7/62 Universand Catolica 1-0 28/8/62 Penarol 2-1 2/9/62 Penarol 2-3 15/7/64 Idependeiente 2-3 22/7/64 Independiente 1-2

    Intercontinental (2 Titles with Pele)

    14/11/63 Milan 4-2 16/11/63 Milan 1-0

    Recopa (1 Title with Pele)

    16/4/68 Racing 3-2 19/4/68 Penarol 0-3 69 Penarol 2-0

    Total record without Pele in these games 48 Games 16 Wins 10 Draws 22 Defeats 0.87 Points Per Game.

    So in these 10 Years 15 Titles

    With Pele 139 Games 1.41 Points Per Game.

    Wthout 48 Games 0.87 Points Per Game.

    62% Improvement 15 Titles
    Maradonas Record in League in Europe (FOOTBALLDATABASE.EU)

    82/83 Barcelona 10W 6D 4L Without 7W 4D 3L

    83/84 Barcelona 10W 3D 3L Without 10W 5D 3L

    84/85 Napoli 10W 13D 7L

    85/86 Napoli 13W 11D 5L Without 1W

    86/87 Napoli 14W 12D 3L Without 1W

    87/88 Napoli 18W 6D 4L Without 2L

    88/89 Napoli 17W 7D 2L Without 1W 4D 3L

    89/90 Napoli 17W 8D 3L Without 4W 1D 1L

    90/91 Napoli 7W 4D 7L Without 4W 11D 1L

    92/93 Seville 10W 8D 8L Without 7W 1D 4L

    Record With 250G 126w 78D 46L 1.32 PPG
    Record Without 78G 35W 26D 17L 1.23 PPG

    Total Record in Europe with Maradona 1.32PPG without 1.23PPG, just 8% improvement.

    Pele makes 62% difference in his peak 10 years (59-69) to Maradona 8%

  5. Maradona’s best years were 78-89.if someone can provide the complete win/loss record with and without him from that time span we can make kind of any fair judgement.

  6. Maradona retired from international soccer for the first time in 1990.at that time his records were: matches 80, wins 37, draws 24, losses 19.total pts 98. Points per game 1.23. Now without him till then: matches 60, wins 20, draws 20 and 20 losses, i.e. total 60 points in 60 matches. Ppg 1.00. I’ve used the same sources the author has provided links of..that is rsssf.com and vivadiego.com.a couple of matches in rsssf list were not full internationals.they’re argentina vs romania and arg vs hungary,both in nehru cup 1984.it was romanian youth side and the hungary side was i think a club team from budapest.thus my stats have differed slightly from those of the author.they possibly suggest maradona made little bit of difference till he was at his peak.

  7. *correction: without maradona till 1990: matches 60, wins 20, draws 22 and 18 losses.that makes a total of 62 points at a ppg of 1.03.

  8. ‘they didn’t really suffer when he was absent’..they in fact did in 1994 world cup when he got banned.before that he was called back from retirement in order to overcome australia in the play off.sure they won two copas back to back without him but a tiny bit of research shows that that feat was achieved in a slightly lesser playing field as brazil and uruguay somehow did not send their best squads, in both versions.lastly as the author mentioned the 1986 win was highly improbable without el diez.

  9. In that period 1991-93 argentina performed very well and had quite a prolonged unbeaten run even without maradona.anyway that was done under a new coach( basile), a fresh bunch of talented youngsters such as batistuta,simeone,rodriguez,lattore,redondo etc..a different set up and ”backbone” compared to the side maradona led during 1986-90.

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