Maradona played his last game at the Camp Nou 37 years ago, without Barcelona suspecting his ‘escape’

Maradona played his last game at the Camp Nou 37 years ago, without Barcelona suspecting his 'escape'

BARCELONA – Long goodbyes hurt, but they take shape as the days go by, guessing the end. The abrupt, the unexpected, pierce the heart in a very hard way and although in the long run both one and the other end up being accepted, the first moment does not fit in the same way. Bernd Schuster, Michael Ladrup or Ronaldinho (in different circumstances) said goodbye to Barcelona for a few months; Neymar, Figo or Ronaldo were the opposite. And Maradona, between one and the other, meant the mixture of all this.

Diego Armando Maradona played on April 22, 1984, 37 years old, his last game as a Barça player at the Camp Nou. It was on the occasion of a derby against Espanyol, a derby of the old ones, in which the result was not taken for granted with the same ease as today and in which the passion of the stands and the grass drew a rivalry longed for by many.

The penultimate day of the League was being played and Barça, which had just had four consecutive victories, still clung to the miracle of beating Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid, who preceded them with a point advantage in the standings. For Espanyol, seventh in the standings and with no other motivation than to ruin Barça’s hopes again, as it had done two years before (a 1-3 that brought down Lattek’s team), the game had no significance … But a derby was a derby. You had to play it, fight it and face it as it deserved.

Maradona already suspected a flight from Barça at that time. It was not in the public domain but it was suspected that his broken relationships with President Núñez were not the best news for a hobby devoted, despite everything, to their idol. Broken by Goiko, destroyed by hepatitis and without leaving more than monumental details of his quality, Diego was at the Camp Nou a King without a crown because he did not need it and who enjoyed the indisputable favor of the fans, who idolized him without dissimulation.

And that he could not even imagine that after two months and eight days Diego would cease to be his to play in a Napoli that, at that time, was nobody in the European football concert. Perhaps for this reason, that warm Sunday he filled the Camp Nou just pending the derby, his Diego … And the games that Real Madrid played at the Bernabéu against Real Valladolid and Athletic at the Mestalla against Valencia at the same time.

There was no miracle because they beat Madrid 2-1 and they also did it 1-2, so the 5-2 at Camp Nou was just a bittersweet farewell to the league season … But with its special things.

Those that Diego starred in the field, of course, being the undisputed star of the derby for 40 minutes and being expelled, as a culmination and farewell, for revolting with the parakeet Miguel Ángel and protesting a referee, Pes Pérez, who went down to posterity for being the last to expel Maradona in Spain.

Two weeks later, on May 5, Pelusa played their last official match with Barça in the remembered final of the Copa del Rey that the Barça team lost at the Bernabéu against Athletic and which led to a real pitched battle between the players. at the end of the meeting, with him, fed up with the kicks suffered during the 90 minutes, as the prominent protagonist.

By then, in May, Napoli had started their strategy to get him out of Barça. And after weeks what could not be ended up being. Maradona ended up leaving Barça, leaving a halo of sadness and disbelief among the fans of a club who could not attend to that reality …

Time, they say, heals wounds and after almost 40 years that is one more story within the history of Barça. In fact, nobody would qualify Maradona’s as the most traumatic exit from the Camp Nou because since then there have been them, repeated and increased in terms of impact among the fans. Schuster in 1988, Laudrup in 1994, Ronaldo in 1997, Figo in 2000 or Neymar in 2017 could attest to this.

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