Diego Maradona wasn't the greatest footballer ever, but he's certainly in that conversation. The untimely death of the Argentinian superstar will inevitably re-raise all the issues around his off-field antics but I'd prefer to concentrate on what he achieved on the pitch and there, the man was a genius. By the time of the 1986 FIFA WC he was at his peak, unquestionably the best player on the planet, and virtually single-handedly dragged a mostly underwhelming side to become world champions for the second time in eight years. In 1978 as a precocious 18yo he was left out of that squad considered too young and physically fragile.
In hindsight a wise move because four years later in Spain he was literally kicked out of the tournament, clattered into and constantly fouled at a time when protection from the referees via the rules wasn't nearly as vigilant as it is today. At Mexico '86 Argentina were not the favourites. In fact the side arrived under intense scrutiny and pressure from home with many believing they had next to no chance - and then along came Diego. It's always difficult in any team sport to proclaim one player as being the reason why they won but if ever there's positive proof of such, it was that World Cup. Maradona WAS the difference.
In every match when they needed him most he stepped up either scoring or providing the winning goal. He scored both in the 2-nil semi-final win over Belgium, threaded a brilliant first-time through ball for Burruchaga to hit the winner in the final vs West Germany and wrote himself into football folklore after a brace against England in the quarters - two goals that largely define his entire career.
The second perhaps the greatest goal ever scored, the first his infamous "Hand of God". I hesitate to label the man a flawed genius because that would imply he failed to fully exploit his talents. Dragging your country from rank outsiders to winning the biggest trophy in all of sport would suggest you achieved everything you ever could athletically. On the day of his death let's celebrate the sheer brilliance of what the whole world saw. Plenty of time after to debate that it could've and should've been so much more.