Rome, July 5 (IANS) Argentine legend Diego Armando Maradona has said that he did not request payment in return for agreeing to become an honorary citizen of Naples, the scene of his greatest success in club football.
“I swear on my mother, who is watching me from heaven, that nobody has mentioned money to me. Nobody. When the citizenship was proposed to me, I accepted immediately,” he told reporters on Tuesday shortly after arriving in the southern Italian city, reports Efe news agency.
“Why is it always necessary to ask for money? It’s not that way for me,” the 56-year-old Maradona said on the eve of the ceremony in Naples’ Plebiscito Square.
Waxing philosophical, he lamented the enormous influence of money in contemporary society before heatedly denouncing those who have accused him of seeking to profit from the initiative to honour him.
“I’d like to find the person who said I came here to earn $260,953 and I’d spit in his face,” he said.
Maradona said that he has had a special relationship with the city since arriving in 1984 to join the Napoli club.
“I’ve been a citizen since the first moment I pulled on the No. 10 jersey,” the Argentine legend said.
“I thank my teammates, without whom I wouldn’t be here today and we wouldn’t have won all that we won. I dedicate this citizenship to my mother, my father and all the Neapolitans.
“Tomorrow will be an unforgettable day for me. I also want to point out that those who said I am here for money are lying. I earned my status as a Neapolitan on the field,” he added.
It was 30 years ago that the man known in his prime as “El Pibe de Oro” (The Golden Boy) led Napoli to its first-ever Italian league title.
Napoli went on to win another league crown, a Coppa d’Italia, a UEFA Cup and an Italian Supercup during Maradona’s seven-year tenure with the club.
Maradona said during the news conference that he would be available to meet Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis about possible future collaboration with his old club.
Napoli retired the legendary No. 10 jersey long ago in Maradona’s honour, but the former Argentina captain said Tuesday that he was open to the idea of the coveted jersey number being revived for the team’s current star, Naples native Lorenzo Insigne.
Napoli retired the jersey in the year 2000 in honour of Maradona, who scored 115 goals for the Serie A.
“If he scores more goals than me, then he can wear it,” Maradona said.
He also asserted that the current Napoli squad have the ability to win the Italian top division title.
“I hope this can be the right season for the Scudetto, as they have the right experience now not to drop the points where they did last time. If they hadn’t have done that, we’d have been champions already.
“I think this is the right moment for Maurizio Sarri, Pepe Reina, Insigne, Dries Mertens and all the others. They can prove that Napoli can win the Scudetto,” Maradona said.
“Many generations have passed since my day. Now the dads have to find videos of my goals to play to their sons. Even the youngest kids know me in Naples and that makes me very proud.”