MLS connections to Diego Maradona as documentary debuts on HBO Tuesday

Diego Maradona – Argentina – Applauds team as head coach

When the Asif Kapadia's Maradona documentary debuts Tuesday night on HBO, American soccer fans will get a glimpse into the controversial – and massively successful – Argentine forward. 

The 1986 World Cup trophy with Argentina. The infamous Hand of God moment. The nearly-500 professional appearances across Europe and South America. The mercurial and controversial managerial career with his home country. There’s a lot of ground to cover.

In all of his soccer travels, Maradona’s career has also become intertwined with several figures currently in MLS. The long reliance on Argentine players – and growing role of coaches from the soccer hub – plays a massive role here.

For starters, Chicago Fire midfielder Nicolas Gaitan received his debut with Argentina’s national team when Maradona was coaching La Albiceleste in the buildup to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Gaitan, who signed this past March on a free transfer from Dalian Yifeng, has since made 19 appearances for his home country. His debut came during his breakout career at Boca Juniors, sparking time at European powerhouses such as Benfica and Atletico Madrid.

There are also connections with San Jose Earthquakes manager Matias Almeyda, who wrote a letter to his idol as a kid. Almeyda, 45, is 13 years younger than Maradona, though both ended up playing for La Liga side Sevilla. They’ve since become friends, and Maradona even put Almeyda’s name forward for the Mexican national team job last year. The gig, of course, went to former Atlanta United manager Tata Martino. 

A clear admiration between two massively-accomplished Argentines, all sparked by a childhood letter.

Another MLS tie-in comes via LA Galaxy manager and former Columbus Crew SC star Guillermo Barros Schelotto. The two played together for a brief time at Boca Juniors, when Schelotto was just breaking in as a professional and Maradona was ending his career. Schelotto also spoke about Maradona recently after a training session.

Surely they’ll be tuning in to bits and pieces of the Maradona documentary, if not the whole thing. A powerful, controversial soccer figure like Maradona will prompt such interest.