3x Maradonas… 1x Roy Hodgson… and a remarkable game in Granada
It was 15th November 1987 and fans gathered expectantly at the old Los Cármenes stadium near the centre of Granada, to witness a never before seen spectacle: All three Maradona brothers, playing for the same team, at the same time, for the first time.
Then in the Segunda, Granada CF had just signed Raúl (Lalo) Maradona. Older brother Diego Maradona was arguably at the height of his fame and ability with Argentina and Italian champions Napoli, whilst younger brother Hugo (El Turco) Maradona had just sealed his first move to Europe with Ascoli.
Not missing a trick, the marketing potential for Granada CF was enormous. Following his success at the 1986 World Cup, the Maradona “brand” was in great demand. Diego and his brothers were making a fortune from advertising campaigns around the world. Latching onto the idea and to celebrate the signing of Lalo Maradona, the club arranged a friendly featuring the Maradona brothers, against Swedish champions Malmö FF, then managed by current England manager, Roy Hodgson.
With plenty of hype, the TV rights for the game were sold for over 20 million pesetas, which along with gate receipts and additional revenue, effectively paid for the transfer and wages of Lalo.
In the game itself, the Maradona brothers enchanted the crowd. Diego danced his way through the Malmö defence numerous times, linking up regularly with his younger brothers, Lalo and Hugo. Though it was the Swedish side of Roy Hodgson that took the lead, Granada and the Maradona brothers dazzled their way back into the game, before the inevitable winner came from a free-kick, scored with aplomb by Diego.
Diego Maradona said of the game: “The idea by Granada CF was marvellous. Getting me together with my brothers is something I’ve always dreamed of. This is the first time we’ve played together.”
A unique day that the Granadino fans will never forget, though unfortunately, the rest of the season was far from memorable. Lalo Maradona couldn’t inspire the team to great performances that season. He played 19 games and scored only 2 goals during the 1987/1988 campaign. Having made a good start to the season, a disastrous run ended with Granada CF finishing second from bottom and relegated to Segunda B. Lalo left and would go on to wander unsuccessfully through a variety of clubs.
Despite the slide down to to the lowest reaches of Spanish football that followed for Granada, the difficult years in the Segunda B, the Tercera and even flirting with bankruptcy, the club rose from almost certain doom, with consecutive promotions and are now enjoying their third consecutive season in the Primera.
The fans have suffered through the worst of times their team has experienced, with no lesser loyalty, but unique days such as the appearance of the three Maradona brothers in the friendly against Malmö, offered a ray of sunshine that they’ll never forget.
By Heath Chesters – Follow @HeathISF