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It Almost Happened: Diego Maradona Signs for Sunderland

In a new series, we take a look back at some of the biggest "It almost happened" moments in football. Today, Maradona Signs for Sunderland
Maradona almost signed for Sunderland

Welcome to a new series of articles from Last Word on Football. Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at the transfers, sackings, appointments and more that almost happened in football, changing the game we all know and love.

Today we look back at the time when Argentina legend Diego Maradona almost signed for Sunderland.

It Almost Happened: Maradona Signs for Sunderland

Diego Maradona had a glittering and also controversial career. He won trophies in Argentina, Spain and Italy representing three of the top teams in world football. His skills brought success to Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli at club level while at international level he captained his country to World Cup success. A creator and scorer of brilliant goals, he almost single-handedly led his teams to victory and trophies.

His success and controversies both on and off the pitch have been well documented; however, many will not know that the Argentina superstar almost took a different route in club football in 1977, and if he had his way, his first European team would have been Sunderland. 

Diego Maradona Wanted the Move to Sunderland to Happen

In 1977, a 17-year-old Maradona was already making the world take notice of his skills while playing at Argentinos Juniors. Sunderland were the first to make a move, and it almost happened.

As Maradona’s biographer, Daniel Arcucci explained: “The first offer that Maradona received was from England’s Sunderland in 1977 and Maradona wanted to go. “He said ‘If they don’t sell me to Sunderland, I’m retiring’. At that time we didn’t have a democratic government and they declared him untransferable, one of a group of players who were untransferable.” 

It took another five years for Maradona to get his move to Europe. However, for Sunderland fans, the move was not to Roker Park but to Barcelona. 

The Black Cats have had many “What if” moments in their long history. This one could be one of the biggest. Sunderland’s history and Maradona’s could have been very different if the transfer had happened. However, fans can only imagine the ‘Maradona Signs for Sunderland’ headlines across the local and national newspaper back pages and the star playing in the famous red and white stripes.


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