Saturday, April 4, 2020

When Michel Hidalgo almost recruited … Maradona

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We are in the spring of 1989. Bernard Tapie took over the presidency of Marseille three years ago with the firm intention of setting up the Marseille club among the great in Europe. While his club is on its way to the second double of its history, the businessman feeds the crazy project to attract OM the best player on the planet, the Argentine Diego Maradona.

El Pibe de Oro was then in Naples, a club to which he offered titles and a city where he was the subject of incredible devotion. But after five years in Campania, he experiences some hassles. He must recognize an illegitimate son, has dangerous relationships with the Camorra, the local mafia, and says he is at the end of the cycle in Serie A.

Tapie smells the right move and thinks the operation feasible. On the Phocéa, his boat anchored off Cannes, he assigns Michel Hidalgo, his general manager, who died on Thursday at 87 years of age. “It’s simple, we were looking for THE player who would take OM to a level. And at that time, THE player is Maradona, “Tapie explained to” So Foot “a few years ago. In Marseille, it is said, a salary of 20 million francs (3 million euros) over three seasons awaits the captain of the Albiceleste.

He asked Cassis for a villa with palm trees

The former coach of the Blues then went to Naples on a private plane for the sake of discretion. He arrives in the sumptuous villa of the playmaker who celebrates the baptism of his daughter. All day long, he was confined to the star’s kitchen, accompanied by his agent, Michel Basilevitch. “He came every quarter of an hour to ask me: Are you okay, Mister Hidalgo? See you soon. The plane was supposed to bring me back at 7 p.m. and we still hadn’t decided on a meeting, Hidalgo told us in the mid-2000s. We made the return shift for dinner with one of his friends. “

This is when the player pours out and would have entrusted his desire to respond favorably to the proposal of OM. “I left with a man who thought he was coming. He was very well there with his four cars, said Hidalgo. But it had nothing to do with what he could have had in Marseille. We could offer him whatever he wanted. He had already asked me if he could have a house by the sea, in Cassis, with palm trees. He had learned about everything. “

VIDEO. Naples: a Maradona museum unknown to the general public

In the end, the case collapsed, due, according to Tapie, to a media leak. For other indirect actors of the file, it is Marco Franchi who would have advised Maradona not to join Marseille. Informed of the negotiations, the president of the Italian club, Corrado Ferlaino, had even demanded 80 million francs as a basis for discussion (12 million euros). The case will not go any further, and OM will set their sights on the Englishman Chris Waddle.

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