Remembering when Diego Maradona almost joined Sheffield United in the 1970s, ahead of documentary UK premiere

Just over 40 years ago the Blades came within a hair's breadth of landing the controversial footballing legend...

By Richie Boon
Friday, 26 April, 2019, 12:18

Diego Maradona, who is widely regarded as one of the game's greatest ever players, and infamous for his 'Hand of God' goal against England in the 1986 World Cup, almost joined Sheffield United back in 1978.

With Harry Haslam at the helm, the Blades looked beyond domestic football to find a new star, and chanced upon a 17-year-old making waves in South America with Argentinos Juniors.

Diego Maradona

After seeing the sublime skills of 'The Golden Boy' in action, during a season where he fired home 19 goals and represented Argentina's senior national side, Haslam pounced for the pint-sized prodigy, offering £200,000 to secure his services.

As the player once revealed in an interview with FourFourTwo magazine, the flights were booked; everything looked to be coming together nicely.

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However, Maradona's side, aware of the precious gem they had on their hands, demanded extra money on top of the original fee. Unable to raise the necessary funds, the Blades pulled the plug on what would have been a sensational signing.

With the tenacious forward having slipped through the net, Haslam moved for River Plate midfielder Alex Sabella instead, who set the club back £160,000. While the player was a hit, United's subsequent plunge down the leagues saw them forced into a sale a couple of seasons later, and Sabella joined Leeds United for £400,000.

The rest, as they say, is history. Maradona remained with his boyhood club for the next few seasons, before going on to star for the likes of Barcelona and Napoli, as well as winning the 1986 World Cup.

A documentary entitled 'Diego Maradona, which chronicles the player's career, will make its UK premiere at Sheffield City Hall on June 6, and will include a Q&A session with the film's director Asif Kapadia.

Doors open at 6pm, and the film starts at 6.45pm. Tickets are priced at £12 and £10.